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Ninth Circuit upholds death sentence despite jury use of Bible quotes

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld the death sentence of Stevie Lamar Fields Monday, ruling that a jury foreman's reliance on Biblical scripture had no "substantial and injurious effect" on the jury's sentencing decision. The court ruled [opinion text, PDF] 9-6 against Fields' habeas appeal. Fields was convicted of rape, kidnapping, robbery, and murder and sentenced to death in 1979, despite the fact that the jury foreman in the case used personal notes, including Bible quotations regarding capital punishment [JURIST news archive], during the jury's deliberations.

This is not the first opinion on the role of freedom of religion in court decisions to come out of the Ninth Circuit in the last few days. On Friday, the court ruled [opinion text, PDF] that it was unconstitutional under the First Amendment for a parole officer to mandate that a former prisoner attend meetings sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous [advocacy website]. The New York Times has more.

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