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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 6, 2005 /26 Adar II, 5765

Is court a place for morals?

By Thane Rosenbaum

There's an even deeper divide in the American legal system than the separation between church and state


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When the Colorado Supreme Court overturned Robert Harlan's death sentence last month, it showed once again just how uncomfortable the American legal system is in invoking moral values as a basis for legal decision-making.



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Harlan had been convicted of raping and murdering a cocktail waitress in Denver in 1995. Before sending the jury out to determine his fate, the lower court judge instructed each juror to make an "individual moral assessment" of whether Harlan should pay the ultimate price for his crime or, instead, spend the rest of his life in jail. Colorado law is unusual in explicitly asking jurors to evaluate their own moral beliefs when deciding capital cases. Taking the judge's instructions seriously, one or more jurors brought a Bible into the jury room and referred to it during deliberations. Harlan was sentenced to death; one juror later acknowledged that she had studied Leviticus 24: an "eye for an eye, tooth for tooth."

In its 3-2 decision overturning the death sentence, the Colorado Supreme Court found that the verdict was tainted by the "aid or distraction of extraneous texts" — in this case, the Bible. The court also expressed concern that jurors believed they had consulted a "higher authority."

So does Colorado really trust its citizens to render moral justice? It is not clear whether the court objected because of the 1st Amendment implications of having the Bible guide the conscience of jurors (which arguably might have infringed on the separation between church and state) or whether the use of any book at all would have resulted in the overturning of the decision.

For instance, would the court have been equally troubled if a juror had brought a copy of "Mein Kampf" into the courtroom and proclaimed that it was indeed this book that had most influenced his moral worldview? What if a juror had instead shared a letter from a parent, acting on the idea that many people derive their moral values from parental influences?

If we take the court at its word, what seemingly troubled it most was that the pristine, sequestered privacy of the jury's deliberations had been invaded by materials not otherwise part of the underlying legal proceeding. So what? Courtrooms are not sanitized, surgical operating rooms. They are places of deep emotion and profound human vulnerability. There should be no equivalent fear of infection. In a situation such as this, given the stakes — and that a final judgment in a death penalty case results in true finality — why should it matter that the jury looked to the Bible for solace, wisdom and earthly guidance?

The jury, after all, did not consult the Bible on the question of guilt or innocence. The jurors had already made that determination based on the evidence presented at trial. But this case is particularly confusing because the trial judge specifically told the jurors to locate the dial on their own individual moral compasses. How did he expect such soul searching to occur? When faced with such a morally complex matter as the death penalty, why wouldn't we expect jurors to seek the assistance of the very texts or teachings that influence their own vision of moral conduct?

And even if they hadn't actually discussed the Bible by name, or leafed through it, they would have done it anyway — privately, in their hearts. What difference does it make that they had physical possession of it?

No matter what the legal system pretends, jurors are not blank slates. They have many preformed opinions, attitudes and, yes, even prejudices. They have been influenced in innumerable ways and exposed to all manner of life lessons. They are riddled with subjectivities that are revealed throughout the proceedings in sometimes subtle and, more often than not, contradictory ways. Robots do not sit in judgment of other human beings. A jury of our peers means — and should mean — those who struggle equally and mightily with their own strivings for virtue and concessions to sorrow.

This Colorado ruling suggests an even deeper divide in the American legal system than the separation between church and state — the one between the legal and the moral. The law prides itself on its rigidity, objectivity and presumed certainty. But, in fact, its deliberations are as messy as that of any other institution where human beings are brought together in the search for clarity and closure.

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Thane Rosenbaum is novelist, essayist and law professor and the author of "The Myth of Moral Justice". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

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© 2005, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate