Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Using Scripture in Trial, Part III.

Some concluding remarks.

1. The most troubling aspect of the prosecutor's closing argument was that the Defendant "is the disciple of Satan." "The"? This claim puts a fresh twist on "demonizing" someone. Here, the prosecutor is claiming some special, unique position for the defendant. The definite article, "the", suggests he is alone in this status. On what authority can he make this statement? How does he know? No matter how horrific the defendant's crimes were, they do not necessarily qualify him as "the disciple of Satan".

2. I think the Court made the right decision not to impose a per se rule barring any biblical references. No reasonable person would want a rule that allows an otherwise free-wheeling closing argument with references to movies, books and stories, but circumscribes any allusion to anything biblical. Moreover, it is difficult, if not impossible, to extract all things religious from the judicial system. Much overlaps exists. For example, one of the Ten Commandments and California penal code section 187 both prohibit murder. Bearing false witness and perjury go hand-in-hand.