Back in the 1990s, Khristian Oliver (that’s an interesting name) was robbing a man’s home. That man had a rifle to defend his home from robbers, but Khristian took the rifle from him, shot him in the face, and then used the rifle to beat him to death. In this way, the murdered man became one more example of how useful it is to own guns to defend yourself.

But that’s not the interesting part of this story.

The interesting part of this story is that when Oliver was sentenced to death, in 1999, the jury consulted with the bible do help them come to a decision.

…while deciding whether he should be given the death penalty, jurors consulted the Bible. Four jury members admitted that several copies had been in the jury room and that highlighted passages were passed around.

At one point, a juror reportedly read aloud from a copy, including the passage: “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.”

Oliver will be executed in about 15 days from now unless legal action being taken now to block his killing by the state of Texas is effective.

Previously, a Colorado death sentence was overturned because the jurors had used the Bible to determine that sentence. An earlier appeal in Oliver’s case using a similar argument was rejected by a Texas appeals court, despite the obvious violation of Church-State separation. But in Texas, nobody really cares bout the law. They just care about Justice. Justice Texas Style.

A federal appeals court upheld that the Bible should not have been used in Oliver’s case, but there was no clear evidence that the bible’s use influenced the jurors’ decision. The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. Amnesty International is now appealing to the state to commute the sentence.

Of course, since this is Texas, Oliver will die. I wonder if he isn’t really going to die because he killed a man. I wonder if he’s going to die because he made a gun owner look bad.



  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    October 20, 2009

    Oh, Texas, that country that considers the possibility of Chuck Norris being preznit. Caught in the battle between security and liberty, they choose to fight against health care reform because it would be socialism, electing a school board which thinks the only real way to stop kids from having unprotected sex is to scare them away from sex, thinks that the Founders were all good Christians who didn’t think our elected officials should be able to take a shit without finding a biblical passage to explain how, While Texas gave us Dr. Pepper, and we can be thankful for that, they also think that everyone deserves to die and the details of the crime you will some day commit so that they can justify it are not so important that a little frontier justice can’t come in to play.

    I knew so many people in Oklahoma that were jealous of Texas’ sense of fair play “Fair trial to be followed by a hangin'” that Texans called Oklahoma the seventh flag over Texas; so even if an Oklahoma Criminal can’t fry at least they have found a way to publicly shame abortionizin’ wimmen. (That’ll larn those gals!)

    I loved many things about Texas, but lately I am happy that I got out of there before my kids suffered too much intellectual damage.

    It’s too bad it’s trending this way, considering that one of the many factors leading to the War for Texas Independence from Mexico was the fact that the Mexican government was not adequately funding the public schools as had been promised. I wonder how Stephen Austin would look at modern Texas. I’m sure he would shake his head in disgust and wonder.

  2. #2 Rob Jase
    October 20, 2009

    Roy Bean still considered a leading judicial light in Texas.

  3. #3 bullofthewoods
    October 20, 2009

    I understand and have empathy for the position of no guns in your home. However, I am a godless liberal, and well armed. I have shotguns and rifles but no handguns (not needed for home defense). My position was reaffirmed Monday of this week when my 81 yr. old neighbor and his wife were awakened at three in the morning by a masked, armed robber in their bedroom. This elderly,WWII vet. shot this thug once through the forehead. Both he and his wife are alive and well because he was armed and knew how to defend his home and loved ones. So there is another side to your position of having guns in the home.

  4. #4 sailor
    October 20, 2009

    “but Khristian took the rifle from him, shot him in the face, and then used the rifle to beat him to death.”

    Well if this part is not disputed I am not going to shed too many tears.

  5. #5 ER Doc
    October 20, 2009

    That man had a rifle to defend his home from robbers, but Khristian took the rifle from him, shot him in the face, and then used the rifle to beat him to death.

    Not that it’s directly relevant, but, in Googling this case, it appears that the elderly gentleman in question used his rifle to shoot one of Khristian’s juvenile accomplices in the leg, but apparently should have shot Khristian first, since Khristian actually shot him with a handgun he was carrying, then used the man’s rifle to beat him to death.

  6. #6 BruceH
    October 20, 2009

    Governor Good Hair never has been able quite suppress his glee at sending criminals (guilty or otherwise) to their deaths. Why, it fills his nasty, black heart with fiery righteousness just knowing that he’s doing the Lord’s work. After all, does not the bible say, in Mathew Chapter 5,

    “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

    Oh, wait…

  7. #7 Tony P
    October 20, 2009

    If you’re going to have weaponry in the house (And I do!) you have to understand that you shoot first, ask questions later.

    And make sure your state law has incorporated castle doctrine. Curiously RI has.

  8. #8 Azkyroth
    October 21, 2009

    If you’re going to have weaponry in the house (And I do!) you have to understand that you shoot first, ask questions later.

    So have you already bought gravestones for your children in advance, for the next time they get up to get a glass of water or use the bathroom while you’re feeling twitchy?

  9. #9 Sili
    October 21, 2009

    I seem to recall a case being overturned because one of the jurors had explained a legal term – I think he was a (former?) judge himself.

    That was considered undue influence.

    But of course that was only the word of Man, not the word of GOD!!

    Sheeesh. What a bizarra state/country/mindset.

  10. #10 Brandon
    October 21, 2009

    I gotta agree with sailor. Personally, I am opposed to the death penalty, and I would love to see it abolished. But the whole Bible detail seems tacked on just to give people something to be indignant about. It’s not like the jurors were going, “Let’s give him candy! Oh wait, there’s a Bible. Let’s kill him instead.”

  11. #11 Rich Wilson
    October 21, 2009

    “Both he and his wife are alive and well because he was armed and knew how to defend his home and loved ones.”

    This is a logical fallacy. It may be true, but unless there’s information you’ve left out, it seems likely that the masked invader wouldn’t have fired a shot himself had he not been detected. I think it would be safe to say that your neighbor at the very least would have had a lot of his stuff stolen though.

  12. #12 Tim
    October 21, 2009

    bullofthewoods: And why are we supposed to believe that this ever happened?

  13. #13 yoyo
    October 21, 2009

    Think I agree with Tim here sounds very unlikely, I live in a country that banned many guns after a few truly horrendous shootings (google Port Arthur Masacre if you want the final one). Since then it’s virtually only country women being abused by their gun owning husbands and the odd case of bikies that involve gun deaths. we haven’t had a school shooting or someone going postal in years. What are you really losing except the possibility your kids will be shot by accident?

  14. #14 a
    October 21, 2009

    The problem with the death penalty is that there’s the rare case where an innocent man gets killed. Being jailed is bad enough, but a justice system killing someone who turns out later to be innocent is a failed one. While I can’t say a man like this would actually be missed if he did indeed commit those crimes and were executed, that still doesn’t change the fact that the death penalty is flawed (and that’s ignoring the chance of rehabilitation, etc).

  15. #15 Irene
    October 21, 2009

    a: It is not that rare. I suppose it may depend on how one defines rare, but most people seem surprised when they find out how common this is.

  16. #16 sailor
    October 21, 2009

    Irene is right, executing the wrong man is not that rare at all, especially if he is black and cannot afford a good lawyer. Quite a few that had not yet been executed have bee let out since DNA evidence proved them innocent.

  17. #17 Captain Obvious
    October 21, 2009

    Clearly this means that if someone (lets for the sake of argument make it a crazed drug addled maniac with an axe) breaks into your house in the US and you use a gun to defend yourself, killing him in the process, you should be executed for murder.

    Afterall, that is what the Bible says.

    If you used one of those ceramic guns baddies in films use to get past xray machines, presumably you’d be ok. There would be no smiting with an iron instrument involved there, allowing you to kill from the comforting safety of a shroud of divine glory, knowing the Lord is with you.

  18. #18 Jason Thibeault
    October 21, 2009

    So, why is the Bible a salient detail at all? It also says to suffer not a midget to live. Would a jury use that as an excuse to put a little person that’s on trial for jaywalking to death?

    There are plenty of ways to defend yourself against a home invasion that don’t involve guns. Many of them way more effective. Like dogs.

  19. #19 Antoni Jaume
    October 21, 2009

    Since the quoted passage was possibly writen when the Bronze Age (as I’ve seen attributed to Dawkins), I would interpret that the mention of iron, a rare metal then that was at first more valuable than gold or silver, and was mostly used in war weapons, is akin to say “high technology weapon”. To use a “high technology weapon” to kill someone seems to imply intention, and that is one difference between manslaughter and murder. So that would require a harsher punishment.

  20. #20 flynn
    October 21, 2009

    Is it OK in this jurisdiction to bring extraneous materials into the jury room for research and consultation? It may be jury misconduct. Anyone know?

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    October 21, 2009

    Flynn: I was wondering the same thing myself.

  22. #22 jake
    October 21, 2009

    Maybe no one from the jury brought in the bibles. Maybe jury rooms in Texas are like hotels, they always have a bible in them.

  23. #23 bullofthewoods
    October 22, 2009

    Tim@12 Sorry, I don’t know how to do the linky thing, but here is the address to the newspaper article.

  24. #24 bullofthewoods
    October 23, 2009

    Tim @ 12, my computer time has been very limited lately. Gotta earn a living you know. However here is the link to the original story. Rich wilson@11 logical or not I have to believe someone kicking down my door and pointing a gun at me in my own home doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, but hey that’s just me.