A Texas death-row inmate has lost his bid for a new sentencing hearing after complaining that the jury foreman at his capital murder trial read a Bible passage aloud to the entire jury before the panel returned his death sentence. Lawyers for Jimmie Urbano Lucero had asked the US Supreme Court to take up the case to examine whether reading Bible passages aloud during jury deliberations violates Sixth Amendment fair-trial rights, reports the Christian Science Monitor. On Monday, the high court declined to take up the case, offering no explanation. The action lets stand decisions by the courts in Texas affirming Lucero’s death sentence.
Lucero was convicted in 2005 of carrying out the shotgun murder of three of his neighbors in 2003: a husband, wife, and their daughter. During an initial penalty phase vote, 10 of the 12 juror voted for death. At that point, the jury foreman produced his personal Bible and read a passage aloud , from Romans 13: 1-6: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The jury continued to deliberate for several hours. When a new vote was taken, the panel decided 12 to 0 in favor of death. Several circuit courts have ruled that the introduction of a Bible into jury deliberations violates a defendant’s rights, but two other circuit courts have ruled the presentation of specific Bible verses during jury deliberations does not violate the Sixth Amendment.