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Prosecutor’s referencing God’s law not a get-outta-jail-free card

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 5, 2010 | 12:37 pm

The Religion Clause picked up on an interesting case out of Mississippi, in which a prisoner sought to have his murder convictions overturned because the prosecutor had referenced the Bible. According to the court, the prosecutor:

asked the jury to apply the secular law given to them, and she used a familiar reference to argue that point. The reign of King Herod and his death from a painful disease, are historical fact, and her comments concerning the slaughter of children referenced a story in a book. That the comments have a religious connotation does not render the argument inherently religious….

Moreover, [the prosecutor’s] reference to “God’s law” was responsive to Petitioner’s own arguments….. [Her] statements were not an endorsement of extrajudicial authority for imposing a sentence of death. Her statements were more akin to familiar Proverbs and parables that are used to support arguments outside of a religious context…. [T]here was no prosecutorial suggestion that personal responsibility for the sentence did not ultimately rest with the jury, and the comments did not suggest that religious principles, rather than the law, applied.

The court rejected that this violated the Establishment Clause of the constitution and denied his habeas petition.

Not sure if this is the same Jackson, but http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2007/09/recent-prisoner-free-exercise-cases_24.html a case by the same name in which Jackson complained that he was unable to attend Muslim prison services because he failed to fill out the Islam box on his prison form.

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