The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case that would determine whether jurors may read aloud from the Bible during deliberations.
A Texas death-row inmate, Jimmie Urbano Lucero, asked the justices for a new sentencing hearing, complaining that a jury foreman violated his Sixth Amendment fair-trial rights by reading a Bible passage aloud during jury deliberations at his murder trial.
Prior to the scripture reading, two of the 12 jurors opposed the death sentence and voted for life in prison. After the foreman read the Bible passage, some hours later the panel voted 12-0 for the death penalty.
In Lucero’s appeal, he argued that the Bible was unauthorized material and introduced extraneous considerations into the trial process.
Circuit courts are split on whether reading specific Bible verses during jury deliberations violates the Constitution. Courts that have allowed Bible reading during deliberations say the Bible’s teachings are already common knowledge in American culture and therefore do not violate a defendant’s rights.
“This case provides an excellent opportunity for the Court to resolve the split by reaffirming its longstanding precedents that the Sixth Amendment guarantees that jury verdicts in criminal cases will be based on the evidence developed at trial, and nothing else,” Lucero’s attorney argued in his brief.
The Supreme Court offered no explanation for denying to hear the Lucero v. Texas appeal and on Oct. 6 let stand decisions by the Texas courts affirming Lucero’s death sentence.