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Over One Hundred Religious Leaders in Louisiana File Opposition to Death Penalty in Louisiana Supreme Court

 

 

SUPREME COURT

STATE OF LOUISIANA

No. 2014-KA-2153

________________________________________________

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Plaintiff-Appellee

v.

RODRICUS CRAWFORD, Defendant-Appellant.

________________________________________________

Appeal from Conviction and Death Sentence Imposed

In the First Judicial District, the Parish of Caddo,

No. 304,048, Hon. Joseph Bleich, Presiding.

________________________________________________

 

 AMICUS BRIEF OF

LOUISIANA RELIGIOUS INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS

 IN SUPPORT OF RODRICUS CRAWFORD

                                               

 

 


William P. Quigley, Bar No. 7769

Loyola University New Orleans

7214 St. Charles Avenue

Campus Box 902

New Orleans, LA 70118

504.710.3074

quigley@loyno.edu

Anna Lellelid, Bar No. 35204

Po Box 19388,

New Orleans, LA 70179

504.224.9670   Alellelid.law@gmail.com

Nikki Thanos, Bar No. 33409

215 South Clark Street

New Orleans, LA 70119

504.616.1888

attorneythanos@gmail.com

Counsel for Signers of Amicus Brief

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Authorities ………………………………………………………………………………2

Interests of Signers of Amicus Brief ……………………………………………………………..4

Introduction and Summary of Argument…………………………………………………………7

Argument………………………………………………………………………………………….8

  1. The Prosecutor Wrongly Used the Bible to Advocate for the Death Penalty……………………………………………………………………………8
  1. Many major religious organizations in the United States Oppose the

Death Penalty…………………………………………………………………….11

  • The Constitutions of the United States and Louisiana Prohibit Prosecutors

from Using Religious Commands to Advocate for the Death Penalty…………..14

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………….15

Verification and Clarification……………………………………………………………………16

TABLE OF AUTHORITIES

 

 

 

Federal and State Constitution

 

U.S. Const. amend. VIII…………………………………………………………………………14

U.S. Const. amend. XIV…..…………………………………………………………………….14

La. Const. art. I, § 1 (1974)……………………………………………………………………..15

La. Const. art. I, § 20 (1974)………………………………………………………………..14, 15

Caselaw

 

Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320, 330, 105 S. Ct. 2633, 2640, 86 L. Ed. 2d 231 (1985)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………14

Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 620, 97 S.Ct. 2861, 53 L.Ed.2d 982 (1977)……………….10-11

 

Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168, 169 181, 106 S. Ct. 2464, 2471, 91 L. Ed. 2d 144 (1986)…………………………………………………………………………………………….14

Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982)………………………14

Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349, 97 S.Ct. 1197, 51 L.Ed.2d 393 (1977)………………………14

Glossip v. Gross, 576 U. S. ____ (2015) ……………………………………………………7, n.1

Godfrey v. Georgia, 446 U.S. 420, 428, 100 S.Ct. 1759, 64 L.Ed.2d 398 (1980)……………….10

Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978)………………………….14

Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976)…………….14

 

Academic Authority

 

Dan Markel, State, Be Not Proud: A Retributivist Defense of the Commutation

 of Death Row and the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 40 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV.

407, 438 (Summer 2005)…………………………………………………………………..11, n. 3

Marvin Lim, A New Approach To The Ethics Of Life: The “Will To Live”

In Lieu Of Inherent Dignity Or Autonomy-Based Approaches,

24 S. CAL. INTERDIS. L.J. 27, 123 (2015)………….…………………………………….11, n. 3

Religious Authority

 

A Resolution: The Death Penalty (Mennonite Church USA, 2001).  http://anabaptistwiki.org/mediawiki/index.php?title=A_Resolution:_The_Death_Penalty_%28Mennonite_Church_USA,_2001%29………………………………………………………..12, n. 12

American Baptist Resolution on Capital Punishment, 1982.  http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Capital-Punishment.pdf……………………………………….…11, n. 4

American Friends Service Committee.  http://www.pfadp.org/faith-in-action-topmenu-112/religious-statements#americanbaptist ……………………………………….…………12, n. 6

Archives of the Episcopal Church, Resolution Number 1991-D056.  http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_generate_pdf.pl?resolution=1991-D056 …………………………………………………………………………………………….12, n. 10

Church of the Brethren, 1987 Report on Death Penalty.http://www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1987deathpenalty.html …………………..12, n. 9

General Assembly of the Christian Church, October 17, 2003……………………………12, n. 11

 

Jewish Statements on the Death Penalty, http://www.olympiafor.org/Jewish%20statements%20on%20the%20death%20penalty.pdf

………………………………………………………………………………………………12, n. 7

National Council of Churches, Abolition of the Death Penalty, September 13, 1968.  http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/common-witness/1968/death-penalty.php ………….12, n. 13

Position of the Reform Movement on the Death Penalty. http://www.rac.org/position-reform-movement-death-penalty?id=1665&pge_prg_id=8089&pge_id=2396…………………….12, n. 8

Presbyterian 101: Capital Punishment.  http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/101/capital-punishment/ ………………..13, n. 14

Reformed Church in America, General Synod Statement: Capital Punishmenthttps://www.rca.org/capitalpunishment………………………………………………..…13, n. 15

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/criminal_justice_section_newsletter/crimjust_juvjus_rac_uahc.authcheckdam.pdf……………………………………………….13, n. 16

Sinners yes, corrupt no, L’Osservatore Romano (Weekly ed. in English)

  1. 46, Nov. 15 2013………………………………………………………………………..10, n. 2

Unitarian Universalist Association, End the Death Penalty.  http://www.uua.org/statements/end-death-penalty ………………………………………………………………………………13, n. 18

United Church of Christ, Capital Punishment.

http://www.ucc.org/justice_criminal-justice_death-penalty………………………………13, n. 17

United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions: In Opposition to Capital Punishment.  http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/in-opposition-to-capital-punishment …………….13, n. 19

U.S. Catholic Bishops, Catholic Campaign to End the Death Penalty. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/upload/5-723DEATHBI.pdf…………………………………………………..11, n. 5

INTERESTS OF SIGNERS OF AMICUS BRIEF

 

            All the individuals who sign this Amicus Brief are religious sisters, clergy or ministers in Louisiana.  They represent communities across Louisiana and they have a substantial interest in ensuring that Louisiana courts are fair and juries are not wrongfully persuaded to impose the death penalty by a prosecutor’s personal interpretation of the Bible. Amici Curiae are the following:

1.) The Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans, LA,

2.) Reverend Shawn Moses Anglem, Senior Pastor First Grace United Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA,

3.) Reverend Louis Arceneaux, CM, Peace and Justice Chair, Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, New Orleans, LA,

4.) Sr. Jane Aucoin, Congregation of St. Joseph (CSJ), New Orleans, LA,

5.) Dr. Ansel J. Augustine, D. Min., Director Office of Black Catholic Ministries, Archdiocese of New Orleans, LA,

6.) Reverend William Barnwell, Trinity Episcopal Church, New Orleans, LA

7.) Sr. Terri Bednarz, Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM), Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies, Loyola University New Orleans, LA,

8.) Sr. Janine Beninger, CSJ, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

9.) Sr. Clarita Bourque, Marianites of the Holy Cross (MSC), New Orleans, LA,

10.) Sr. Rose Bowen, O.P., Dominican Sister of Peace, New Orleans, LA,

11.) Sr. Suzanne Brauer, OP, Dominican Sister of Peace, New Orleans, LA,

12.) Sr. Barbara Breaud, Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Lacombe, LA,

13.) Reverend William Brent Jr., Pastor, The First African Baptist Church of New Orleans, LA,

14.) Sr. Joan Broussard, St. Dominic, New Orleans, LA,

15.) Fr. Douglas Brougher, Good Shepherd Parish, New Orleans, LA,

16.) Bishop Thomas Louis Brown, Fourth Episcopal District, CME Church, Louisiana and Mississippi,

17.) Reverend Kenneth Buddendorff, SJ, Society of Jesus (SJ), Grand Coteau, LA,

18.) Sr. Carol Burk, RSCJ, Society of the Sacred Heart, New Orleans, LA,

19.) Reverend Willie L. Calhoun, Jr., New Israel Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

20.) Reverend James C. Carter, Society of Jesus, Loyola University New Orleans, LA,

21.) Sr. Cecilia Castillo, STJ, Blessed Francis X. Seelos Church, New Orleans, LA,

22.) Reverend Thomas Chambers, CSC, Good Shepherd, New Orleans, LA,

23.) Sr. Maureen J. Chicoine, Religious of the Sacred Heart, New Orleans, LA,

24.) Rabbi Edward Cohn, Congregation Temple Sinai, New Orleans, LA,

25.) Mary H. Collins, United Methodist Church, President of Church Women United in Louisiana, New Orleans, LA,

26.) Very Reverend Thomas Condon, OP, Provincial Southern Dominican Province, New Orleans, LA,

27.) Sr. Shawn Conrad, OSB, Benedictine Sister, Mary Queen of Peace, Mandeville, LA,

28.) Reverend Carol Winn Crawford, Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA,

29.) Sr. Mary Ann Culotta, OP, Dominican Sisters for Peace, New Orleans, LA,

30.) Bishop Jerone J. Dabon, Pastor, Faith Temple Church of God The Holy Ghost Center, New Orleans, LA,

31.) Deacon Charles N. DeGravelles, Trinity Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, LA,

32.) Reverend Anita Dinwiddie, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA,

33.) Sr. Betty Doskey, Dominican Sisters, New Orleans, LA,

34.) Right Reverend Bishop Joe Morris Doss, Episcopal Church Louisiana, LA,

35.) Most Reverend Michael G. Duca, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, LA,

36.) Sr. Frances Ducos, CSJ, St. Ignatius Loyola, New Orleans, LA,

37.) Reverend Charles Duplessis, Senior Pastor, Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

38.) Reverend Tyrone Edwards, Zion Travelers Baptist Church, Phoenix, LA,

39.) Sister Judith Elms, OSB, Mary Queen of Peace, Mandeville, LA,

40.) Most Reverend Shelton J. Fabre, Catholic Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, LA,

41.) Sister Lillian Flavin, OP, New Orleans, LA,

42.) Rabbi Allen I. Freehling

43.) Reverend Willie Gable, Pastor, Progressive Baptist Church New Orleans, LA,

44.) Reverend Susan S. Gaumer, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans, LA,

45.) Pastor George Green Jr. New Orleans, LA

46.) Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg, Congregation Beth Israel, Metairie, LA,

47.) Reverend Lonzo Hamilton, St. Matthew Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA

48.) Sr. Marjorie Hebert, Marianites of the Holy Cross, St. Martha Church, New Orleans, LA,

49.) Sr. May Anne Hebert, CSJ, Baton Rouge, LA,

50.) Most Reverend Ronald P. Herzog, Catholic Bishop of Alexandria, LA,

51.) Sr. Barbara Hughes, CSJ, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

52.) Sr. Donna Hyndman, Ursuline Sisters, New Orleans, LA,

53.) Reverend Barbara Jarrell, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Shreveport, LA,

54.) The Most Reverend Rev. Michael Jarrell, Catholic Bishop of Lafayette, LA,

55.) Pastor Walsdorf H. Jenneford Sr., Pastor, Rising Sun Missionary Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

56.) Reverend Dr. Ernest L. Johnson Sr., Baton Rouge, LA,

57.) Reverend M. Suzanne Johnston, Deacon, Grade Episcopal Church of West Feliciana, LA,

58.) Pastor Walter Jones, Christian Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

59.) Reverend Alfred C. Kammer SJ, Loyola University New Orleans, LA,

60.) Fr. Peter Kang, Ph.D., Associate Rector, Grace Episcopal Church of West Feliciana, St. Francisville, LA,

61.) Reverend Dr. Kevin S. Kanouse, Bishop of Northern Texas Northern Louisiana Mission Area, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

62.) Reverend Dan Krutz, Louisiana Interchurch Conference, Baton Rouge, LA

63.) Very Reverend Jose I. Lavastida, STD, Pastor, Blessed Francis X. Seelos Church, New Orleans, LA,

64.) Rabbi Ethan Linden, Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation, Metairie, LA,

65.) Sr. Margaret Maggio, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

66.) Reverend Peter B. Mangum, Rector Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Shreveport, LA,

67.) Sr. Ann K. Martinez, MSC, St. Dominic, New Orleans, LA,

68.) Dr. Michael Massar, Co-Pastor, University Baptist Church and State Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baton Rouge, LA,

69.) Reverend Andre McGrath, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church, Shreveport, LA,

70.) Reverend Constance McIntosh, First Presbyterian Church, Welsh, LA,

71.) Reverend Philip Michiels, Pastor, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Shreveport, LA,

72.) Sr. Miriam Mire, Congregation of St. Joseph, Houma, LA,

73.) Reverend Melanie Morel-Ensminger, Unitarian Universalist New Orleans, LA,

74.) Most Reverend Robert W. Muench, Catholic Bishop of Baton Rouge, LA,

75.) Reverend Leo A. Nicoll, SJ, Society of Jesus, Loyola University New Orleans, LA,

76.) Sr. Maureen O’Donovan, Sisters of the Holy Faith, St. Gabriel the Archangel, New Orleans, LA,

77.) Sr. Maria Isabel Ordono, Society of St. Teresa of Jesus, Covington, LA,

78.) Right Reverend Jacob W. Ownensby, PhD, DD, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, Alexandria, LA,

79.) Reverend Leonard M. Parker Jr., Senior Pastor, New Orleans Bible Fellowship BC, New Orleans, LA,

80.) Sr. Sue Pablovich, MSC, Marianites of the Holy Cross, New Orleans, LA,

81.) Minister Jamilah Peters-Muhammad, Christian Unity Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

82.) Reverend Ansgar Pham, SSD, Domus Dei Society, New Orleans, LA,

83.) Sr. Ellen Poche, CSJ, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

84.) Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

85.) Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Catholic Bishop of Lake Charles, LA,

86.) Sr. Claire E. Regan, Sisters of Charity, New Orleans, LA,

87.) Sr. Mary Roseener, CSJ, Congregation of St. Joseph, New Orleans, LA,

88.) Reverend Nathan Ryan, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA,

89.) Sr. Cynthia Sabathier, St. Joseph Spirituality Center, Baton Rouge, LA,

90.) Reverend Dr. Torin Sanders, Pastor, The Sixth Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

91.) Reverend Zach Sasser, First Presbyterian Church, Lafayette, LA

92.) Cantor Neil Schwartz, Agudath Achim Synagogue, Shreveport, LA,

93.) Sr. Linda Songy, St. Gabriel the Archangel Church, New Orleans, LA,

94.) Sr. Jane St. Amant, OSB, Benedictine Sister, Mary Queen of Peace, Mandeville, LA,

95.) Sr. Anne Sturges, Religious of the Sacred heart of Jesus, New Orleans, LA,

96.) Sr. Ameline Theriot, SFCC

97.) Reverend Richard Thibodeau, C.Ss.R., Pastor, St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, LA,

98.) Sr. Sylvia Thibodeauz, SSF, Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans, LA,

99.) Reverend William Thiele, Pastor Parker Memorial United Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA,

100.) Reverend Pike Thomas, Pastor, St. Jude Catholic Church, Benton, LA,

101.) Sr. Dorothy Trosclair, OP, Dominican Sisters for Peace, New Orleans, LA,

102.) Reverend Deanna Vandiver, Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalists, New Orleans, LA,

103.) Reverend Jim VanderWeele, Community Church Unitarian Universalist, New Orleans, LA,

104.) Sr. Ceal Warner, OP, Dominican Sisters of Peace,

105.) Reverend Mark Watson, Pastor St. Patrick Catholic Church, Lake Providence LA,

106.) Reverend Thomas Watson, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, New Orleans, LA

107.) Reverend Dwight Webster, PhD, Senior Pastor, Christian Unity Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA,

108.) Reverend Dr. Willie William Jr., Pastor, True Love MBC, New Orleans, LA,

109.) Sr. Juanita Wood, MSC, St. Dominic, New Orleans, LA.

 

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT

 

This Amicus brief is filed by Louisiana ministers, sisters, priests, deacons, rabbis and other ordained clergy and religious people and organizations who oppose the imposition of the death penalty in this case and who seek to bring several points to this Court’s attention.

Signers grieve every wrongful death.  But signers do not believe that further death at the hands of the government is a just or moral response.  This brief is filed in support of saving the life of Mr. Rodricus Crawford.  Mr. Crawford was indicted for the first degree murder of his one-year old son and found guilty by a Caddo Parish jury on November 12, 2013. R. 1855-2491. The jury returned a sentence of death the following day. R. 2742.  His lawyers filed motions for a new trial based on their discovery of new evidence that they believe prove Mr. Crawford’s innocence. R. 2762, 2778. This Amicus brief is submitted because signers believe that the prosecutor’s Biblical references during Mr. Crawford’s sentencing were wrong and illegal.

First, the signers of this Amicus brief wish to highlight the inappropriate and unconstitutional conduct of the prosecutor.  The prosecutor, as an agent of the State of Louisiana, should not have misused and misinterpreted passages in the Bible to support his call to the jury for the execution of Mr. Crawford.  The prosecutor’s own private interpretations of the Bible are his own and he is entitled to his own opinions.  The problem is that at critical times the prosecutor, Mr. Cox, acting as an official agent of the State of Louisiana, publicly injected his own private religious interpretations of the Bible into the trial as the State’s justification to argue for the execution of Mr. Crawford. Mr. Cox’s statements are particularly egregious in a parish that leads the country in executions per capita and primarily due to the efforts of Mr. Cox.[1]

Second, to illustrate the problem with allowing the prosecutor to inject his own personal religious opinions into this trial and to allow him, as an official agent of the State of Louisiana to misuse the Bible to ask for the execution of Mr. Crawford, the signers of this Amicus brief point out that many of the major religious organizations in this country interpret the Bible in a dramatically different way than the prosecutor and have decided capital punishment is not at all a just purpose of punishment.  The prosecutor’s personal opinions about the Bible are inconsistent with most major religious traditions and are subject to considerable controversy and should not be allowed to be used as the official statement of the government when arguing for executions.

Third, the signers submit that under the Constitutions of the United States and Louisiana it is illegal for prosecutors, as official representatives of the government, to inject and use their own controversial and private religious beliefs and Biblical interpretations to advocate for the execution of any person.  Accordingly, we ask this Court to reverse the death sentence in this case.

ARGUMENT

  1. The Prosecutor Wrongly Used the Bible to Advocate for the Death Penalty

At critical times during the trial of Mr. Crawford, the prosecutor, Mr. Cox, wrongfully misinterpreted and misused the Bible as the State’s justification to advocate for the execution of Mr. Crawford.

This Amicus is not about Mr. Cox’s own private understanding, misunderstanding or interpretation of the Bible.  He is certainly entitled to his own personal opinions.

This is, however, about Mr. Cox, acting as an official representative of the government of the State of Louisiana, misusing and misinterpreting the Bible in a wrongful attempt persuade the jury to impose the death penalty on Mr. Crawford.

There were two instances where the prosecutor wrongfully used or misused the Bible and his own opinions to advocate for the execution of Mr. Crawford.

First, during the penalty phase of trial, the lawyer for Mr. Crawford called Pastor John Dent, Sr., to speak about the value of Mr. Crawford’s life because Pastor Dent had known the Defendant all his life.  R. 2675.

Pastor Dent in his testimony with the lawyer for Mr. Crawford did not reference the Bible at all.

Yet, the prosecutor, on cross-examination, asked the Pastor about his interpretation of specific Biblical passages and argued with Pastor Dent about what the Bible meant.

Cox:    You speak eloquently, Pastor, about redemption and grace and mercy.

And I know that you believe in those concepts and that really is your calling, is it

not?

Dent:  Yes, sir, yes, sir it is.

Cox:    Do you remember a scripture attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament,

where, referring to children, Christ said to his followers: Woe unto you, any of that would harm one of these.  It would be better. . . as though you will never born.  You will have a millstone put around your neck and dropped into the sea.  Do you believe in that concept?

….

Cox:    Do you believe in Christ’s teaching about the punishment that is reserved for anyone who would harm a child?

Dent:   Yes, sir. I also believe in grace, God’s unmerited gift. I also believe that all

have sinned and come short of the glory of the God. There’s no, not one, that is righteous. I also believe that when Christ extended and commanded us to – not only to murderers, not only to adulterers, not only to sinners and even saints – how He told his disciples that a new command that I give you, that ye love one another, not talking about that of timing but that of quality. But answer to your question, if I may, I believe all Scripture.

Cox:    Well then, of course, you know that Christ was not talking about whether

someone’s soul might be forgiven for hurting a young one, a child, but whether their earthly life would be terminated for harming a child, their temporal life.  You agree with that, don’t you?

Dent:  No, sir, I don’t, because I believe that’s your interpretation.

Cox:  So, Pastor, then we should just ignore that Scripture from Christ?

  1. 2681-2683 (emphasis added).

Secondly, at the very end of the penalty phase of the trial, when the jury is asked to decide whether the person should be sentenced to life in prison or to be executed by the death penalty, Mr. Cox ended his rebuttal by stating:

…He [Jesus Christ] said, to the adult, who would harm one of these, “one of these” referring to small children, “Woe be unto you, who would harm on of these.  Now, this is the Jesus Christ of the New Testament.  It would be better if though you were never born.  You shall have a millstone cast around your neck and you will be thrown into the sea.

The problem here with Scripture, and it’s easy enough to do, and it’s sometimes we all fall into it, is, like Pastor Dent said, there is always a Scripture to support whatever point you want to make, but the thing about Christ is in both cases, He reached a just verdict which is what the law asks you to reach in this case:  a just verdict.  Not the mean Christ, not the nice Christ, but the just Christ.  And that’s why I think that we should not lightly disregard His words when He talks about what He would do to someone who hurt one of these…what He would do.

 

  1. 2724-2725 (emphasis added).

This is wrong for religious as well as legal reasons. First, many religious scholars flatly disagree with Mr. Cox’s personal interpretation of the Bible.  For just one recent example see the 2013 quote from Pope Francis below.[2]  Though Biblical interpretation is not likely what this Court is interested in, if this Court would like a full discussion of this point in reference to this passage, the signers of this Amicus brief are willing to supplement this brief.

Which leads to the second point.  Why would this Court not be interested in a full discussion of the biblical interpretation of what the prosecutor argued?  Because the prosecutor should not by his speech to the jurors have forced this Court to later approve or disapprove the legality and propriety of his individual interpretation of Biblical passages, particularly when being argued by an official representative of the state in favor of executing a person.

Attempts at biblical exegesis such as this have no place in criminal trials, especially when a person’s life is at stake.  These references do not provide the jury with “clear and objective standards that provide specific and detailed guidance” that the United States Supreme Court requires in death penalty cases. Godfrey v. Georgia, 446 U.S. 420, 428, 100 S.Ct. 1759, 64 L.Ed.2d 398 (1980). The prosecutor’s private opinions about what the Bible says are more consistent with revenge than justice.  His private opinions are fine as long as they remain his private opinions.  However, as Chief Justice Berger stated in Coker v. Georgia, “As a matter of constitutional principle, [the Eighth Amendment proportionality] test cannot have the primitive simplicity of ‘life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ ” 433 U.S. 584, 620, 97 S.Ct. 2861, 53 L.Ed.2d 982 (1977) (Burger, C.J., dissenting). [3]

  1. Many Major Religious Organizations in the United States Oppose the Death Penalty

To further illustrate the wrongful use of the Bible by the state prosecutor in this case, signers of this Amicus brief point this Court to the many major religious organizations in the United States, which have, after much thoughtful prayer and discussion, decided to publicly oppose the death penalty.

Compare the prosecutor’s personal interpretation of the Bible to that of the following religious organizations.

  1. The American Baptist Churches USA has opposed capital punishment since 1982. “We as American Baptists, condemn the current reinstatement of capital punishment and oppose its use under any new or old state or federal law, and call for an immediate end to planned executions throughout this country.  We urge American Baptists in every state to act as advocates against the passage of new death penalty laws, and to act individually and in concert with others to prevent executions from being carried out.  We appeal to the governors of each state where an execution is pending to act with statesmanship and courage by commuting to life imprisonment without parole all capital cases within their jurisdiction.”[4]
  1. Since 1999, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the end of the death penalty in the USA stating “opposition to the death penalty is important not only for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but what it does to all of us as a society.”[5]
  1. The American Friends Service Committee, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, has long opposed the death penalty. “We base our stand on the Quaker belief that every person has a value in the eyes of God and on Quaker testimonies against the taking of human life.”[6]
  1. Since 1972, the American Jewish Committee has opposed the death penalty describing it as “cruel, unjust and incompatible with the dignity and self-respect of man.”[7]
  1. The Central Conference of American Rabbis formally opposes the death penalty. “We believe that there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and that it is the obligation of society to evolve other methods in dealing with crime. We appeal to our congregants and to our co-religionists and to all who cherish God’s mercy and love to join in efforts to eliminate this practice [of capital punishment] which lies as a stain upon civilization and our religious conscience.”[8]
  1. The Church of the Brethren are on record stating “Our Christian sense of justice compels us to abolish the death penalty.”[9]
  1. The Episcopal Church has opposed capital punishment since 1958 and has repeated its opposition in 1969, 1979 and 1991.[10]
  1. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) opposes the death penalty as “contrary to God’s passion for justice” and has spoken out against it many times.[11]
  1. The Mennonite Church USA advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.[12]
  1. Since 1968, the National Council of Churches, which represents 35 mainstream Protestant and Orthodox churches, has advocated for the abolition of the death penalty.[13]
  1. The Presbyterian Church called for an end to capital punishment in 1959, 1977, 1978, 1985, 2000, and 2008.[14]
  1. The Reformed Church in America is opposed to capital punishment and called for its abolition in 1965, 1966 and 2000.[15]
  1. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations, strongly opposes capital punishment in all cases and has since 1959.[16]
  1. Since 1969, the United Church of Christ has opposed capital punishment and has reaffirmed its opposition many times since. “We simply believe murder is wrong, whether committed by individuals or the state.”[17]
  1. The Unitarian Universality Association opposed the death penalty in 1961, 1966, 1974, 1979, and 2000. The church challenged “capital punishment as inconsistent with human life on account of its retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character.” [18]
  1. From 1956 onward, the United Methodist Church has opposed the death penalty officially and has reaffirmed its opposition in 1980 and 2000. “In spite of a common assumption to the contrary, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” does not give justification for the imposing of the penalty of death. Jesus explicitly repudiated retaliation (Matthew 5:38-39), and the Talmud denies its literal meaning and holds that it refers to financial indemnities.”[19]

That these many religious organizations arrive at a fundamentally different conclusion than the prosecutor’s biblical opinions illustrates the danger of allowing sworn representatives of the state to use the Bible as a tool for executions and highlights why the prosecutor’s conduct in this case cannot be allowed.

III.       The Constitutions of the United States and Louisiana Prohibit Prosecutors from Using Religious Commands to Advocate for the Death Penalty.

 

By referring multiple times to a verse from the Bible and urging the jury to do “what [Jesus] Christ would do” in this case, the prosecutor injected his own private controversial religious opinions into the trial and violated Mr. Crawford’s right to a fair and impartial trial in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. R. 2703.

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 20 of the Louisiana Constitution prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII & La. Const. art. I, § 20 (1974). And the United States Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence requires capital jurors to view their decision whether to sentence a person to death or life imprisonment with seriousness and without improper prejudice. See, e.g., Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982); Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978); Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349, 97 S.Ct. 1197, 51 L.Ed.2d 393 (1977); Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976).

The Eighth Amendment’s need for reliability requires a jury to view their decision whether to sentence someone to death as an “awesome responsibility.” Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320, 330, 105 S. Ct. 2633, 2640, 86 L. Ed. 2d 231 (1985); Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 305 96 S.Ct. 2978, 2991, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976).  In Caldwell, the Supreme Court held that it is constitutionally impermissible to rest a death sentence on a determination made by a jury who has been led to believe that the responsibility for determining the appropriateness of the defendant’s death rests elsewhere and stated “many of the limits that this Court has placed on the imposition of capital punishment are rooted in a concern that the sentencing process should facilitate the responsible and reliable exercise of sentencing discretion.” 428 U.S. at 328-29.

Additionally, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires reversal when the prosecutor’s comments have “so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.” Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168, 169 181, 106 S. Ct. 2464, 2471, 91 L. Ed. 2d 144 (1986).

The prosecutor’s inappropriate and highly prejudicial comments also violate Louisiana’s Constitution. Article I Declaration of Rights, Section 1 on the Origin and Purpose of Government states that for all Louisiana government, “Its only legitimate ends are to secure justice for all.” La. Const. art. I, § 1 (1974).  Further, the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, in Article I Declaration of Rights, Section 20, not only cruel or unusual punishments, but decrees that no person shall be subject to ‘excessive’ punishment. La. Const. art. I, § 20 (1974).

CONCLUSION

 

For legal, moral, religious and ethical reasons, the signers of this Amicus ask this Court to disallow prosecutors, as official representatives of the State, to argue their own private and controversial religious interpretations of the Bible, which are at odds with many religious denominations, as reasons to execute anyone, and to rule that the prosecutor’s conduct was illegal and improper in this case.

Respectfully Submitted,

___________________________

Anna Lellelid, Bar No. 35204

Po Box 19388,

New Orleans, LA 70179

504.224.9670                                                  Alellelid.law@gmail.com

William P. Quigley, Bar No. 7769

Loyola University New Orleans

7214 St. Charles Avenue

Campus Box 902

New Orleans, LA 70118

504.710.3074

quigley@loyno.edu

Nikki Thanos, Bar No. 33409                       215 South Clark Street                              New Orleans, LA 70119                          504.616.1888

attorneythanos@gmail.com

Counsel for Amici Curiae

VERIFICATION AND CERTIFICATION

COMES NOW Anna Lellelid, being duly sworn, and deposes and states that she has reviewed the forgoing motion, that all the facts therein are true and accurate to the best of her information and belief; that she has notified or will notify the parties listed below that this motion has been filed; and that she will cause, a true and accurate copy of this brief to be served forthwith on the parties listed below:

The Honorable Joseph Bleich

First Judicial District Court

501 Texas Street

Shreveport, LA 71101

THE CAPITAL APPEALS PROJECT

Cecelia Trenticosta La. Bar No. 32736

Michael Admirand, La. Bar No. 32987

636 Baronne Street

New Orleans, La. 70113

(504) 529-5955

Appellate Counsel for Defendant/Appellant Rodricus Crawford

Suzanne Owen

Caddo Parish District Attorney

525 Marshall St.

Shreveport, LA 71101

(318) 226-6960

Counsel for the State of Louisiana

 

Sworn and Subscribed to before me this ______ day of ________, in the year 2015.

___________________

Notary Public

[1] See Campbell Robertson, The Prosecutor Who Says Louisiana Should ‘Kill More People, The New York Times, July 7, 2015 available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/08/us/louisiana-prosecutor-becomes-blunt-spokesman-for-death-penalty.html?_r=0 (stating “From 2010 to 2014, more people were sentenced to death per capita here than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period” and quoting Justice Breyer’s dissent in Glossip v. Gross, 576 U. S. ____ (2015) (slip op. at 12) (Breyer, J disenting )’“Between 2004 and 2009,” Justice Breyer wrote, “just 29 counties (fewer than 1 percent of counties in the country) accounted for approximately half of all death sentences imposed nationwide.”).

[2] For example, as Pope Francis indicated during a 2013 sermon, the millstone passage itself is hyperbolic metaphor referring to those who would lead the faithful into scandal:

“Jesus,” he said, “is not speaking here about sin but about scandal” and he says: It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves!”. The Pope therefore asked: “But what is the difference between sin and scandal?”. The difference, he said, is that “whoever sins and repents asks for forgiveness, he feels weak, he sees himself as a child of God, he humbles himself and asks Jesus to save him. But the one who gives scandal and does not repent continues to sin and pretends to be a Christian”. It is as though he leads “a double life,” and he added, “the double life of a Christian causes great harm.”

Sinners yes, corrupt no, L’Osservatore Romano (Weekly ed. in English) n. 46, Nov. 15 2013.

[3] Revenge is distinct from retribution.  As Professor Dan Markel explained, prior to his own tragic murder:” [R]etribution is uninterested in making the offender experience generic suffering; rather, and quite distinct from revenge, retribution seeks to use the state’s power to coerce the offender in particular ways  . . . retribution is interested in, and speaks to, the moral autonomy and dignity of the offender, whereas revenge may be indifferent to those qualities; such indifference crucially affects whether and what kind of excuses might limit revenge or retribution; and finally, retribution’s intent requirement, discussed above, requires that the punishment not preclude the internalization of the “sense of justice” that would allow for an offender to demonstrate his respect for the norms of moral responsibility, equal liberty under law, and democratic self-defense, whereas revenge has no such requirement.”  Dan Markel, State, Be Not Proud: A Retributivist Defense of the Commutation of Death Row and the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 40 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 407, 438 (Summer 2005).  See also Marvin Lim, A New Approach To The Ethics Of Life: The “Will To Live” In Lieu Of Inherent Dignity Or Autonomy-Based Approaches, 24 S. CAL. INTERDIS. L.J. 27, 123 (2015) (“Retribution is not about animal-like, emotionally driven revenge. Instead, it has a higher aspiration: eliciting the perpetrator’s empathy.”).

[4] American Baptist Resolution on Capital Punishment, 1982.  http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Capital-Punishment.pdf

[5] U.S. Catholic Bishops, Catholic Campaign to End the Death Penalty. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/upload/5-723DEATHBI.pdf

[6] American Friends Service Committee.  http://www.pfadp.org/faith-in-action-topmenu-112/religious-statements#americanbaptist

[7] Jewish Statements on the Death Penalty. http://www.olympiafor.org/Jewish%20statements%20on%20the%20death%20penalty.pdf

[8] “Position of the Reform Movement on the Death Penalty.” http://www.rac.org/position-reform-movement-death-penalty?id=1665&pge_prg_id=8089&pge_id=2396

[9] Church of the Brethren, 1987 Report on Death Penalty. http://www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1987deathpenalty.html

[10]  The Archives of the Episcopal Church, Resolution Number 1991-D056.  http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_generate_pdf.pl?resolution=1991-D056

[11] General Assembly of the Christian Church, October 17, 2003.

[12]  A Resolution: The Death Penalty (Mennonite Church USA, 2001).  http://anabaptistwiki.org/mediawiki/index.php?title=A_Resolution:_The_Death_Penalty_%28Mennonite_Church_USA,_2001%29

[13] National Council of Churches, Abolition of the Death Penalty, September 13, 1968.  http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/common-witness/1968/death-penalty.php

[14] Presbyterian 101: Capital Punishment.  http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/101/capital-punishment/

[15] Reformed Church in America, General Synod Statement: Capital Punishment.  https://www.rca.org/capitalpunishment

[16] Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/criminal_justice_section_newsletter/crimjust_juvjus_rac_uahc.authcheckdam.pdf

[17] United Church of Christ, Capital Punishment. http://www.ucc.org/justice_criminal-justice_death-penalty

[18] Unitarian Universalist Association, End the Death Penalty.  http://www.uua.org/statements/end-death-penalty

[19]  United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions: In Opposition to Capital Punishment.  http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/in-opposition-to-capital-punishment

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