Brandon Astor Jones, who was executed in Georgia on Wednesday (Feb. 3), was sentenced to death twice. His first death sentence was overturned for an unlikely reason: A Bible had been allowed into the jury room, and an appeals judge thought jurors might have let biblical law trump the Constitution. The second time Jones was sentenced, in 1997, no Bible was involved.
But the role of the Bible in death penalty cases has hardly been settled. The decision to send someone to execution has unmistakably theological connotations, so defense attorneys push jurors with passages about mercy, while prosecutors favor those that deal with retribution. When two Cornell law professors surveyed dozens of such cases in 2000, they found that judges seldom agreed on whether these quotes were permissible, leading to a “hodge-podge of outcomes.”
Here are a handful of death penalty cases where biblical quotes were used. Can you guess whether the judges approved?
This article was originally by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.