Church & State, the monthly magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State for November, 2013 carried an account of a blatant violation of a criminal defendant's civil rights by the State Attorney of Florida, a prosecutor who missed his calling, having apparently learned his Constitutional law in divinity school. After securing a murder conviction of one Anthony J. Farina, the state's attorney, John Tanner, went through the sentencing phase of the bifurcated trial with bible-thumping zeal, even cross-examining Farina's character witness: his pastor. Tanner scolded the cleric for misinterpreting the Book of Romans, and in closing he insisted that capital punishment was mandated by "the infallible word of God."
Tanner told jurors that Romans clearly indicates that those who "rebel against authority will bring judgment on themselves," so it was obvious that the defendant and an accomplice "brought this judgment upon themselves." (Did the jurors believe that God had already judged Farina guilty, so there were no moral options available to them?) The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th District took issue with that pronouncement and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Farina. The court wrote: "As we have recounted, the prosecutor introduced religion into the proceedings during jury selection and actively sprinkled religious allusions throughout" the trial.
The result is no doubt troubling to non-believers, who might be wondering why the appellate court did not order a new trail on guilt-innocence, not just a sentencing hearing. I am reminded of a Texas case where a similar situation arose in a criminal prosecution. The jurors retired and selected as their presiding juror a bible-thumper who said much the same thing. In other words, he shamed the other jurors into thinking that the "Almighty" would be displeased with anything less than a guilty verdict. Some jurors had to have been thinking, If I don't vote for conviction, God will be displeased and He may be send me to Hell. Unfortunately, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals did not see it that way: they affirmed. Clearly, religion has no place in the courtroom; at least not to the extent that both of these cases illustrate.
Now...what Church & State did not report (their account was only a squib of seven short paragraphs) is that Tanner was just voted out of office in a November 1 election, according to the Daytona Post:
"The winner, R.J. Larizza successfully campaigned against special interests and was widely supported by law enforcement and the working class. Despite having raised only a fraction of Tanner's massive war chest, Larizza's anti-corruption message carried the votes. True to form of late, Tanner refused to acknowledge his loss until this morning and alleged that it was due to 'low voter turnout.' However, low voter turnout is what incumbents always pray for as it usually favors them. 'It's a sad day that negative campaigning and outright lies may have defeated us,' Tanner added with customary arrogance in an interview with the Daytona Beach News-Journal." http://www.daytonapost.com/2008/08/tanner-booted-from-state-attorne...
The Post goes on to say: "Tanner's loss has been attributed in great part to his reluctance to investigate and prosecute the large number of corruption complaints against Daytona Beach city officials. Many of Tanner's supporters have been beneficiaries of diverse contracts, land purchases and even the funding of personal hobbies, all financed by taxpayers and awarded by the City Commission with little transparency. Some of these are the subject of criminal complaints which had been pushed under the rug by Tanner's office."
Tanner "developed a reputation of self-entitlement and "above the law" attitude. An arrogance that the voters just could not allow any more. Before being elected State Attorney, Tanner was considered a top notch prosecutor and an outstanding lawyer. Indicted for a man's death at 25, Tanner later would win death sentences for nine killers. A born-again Christian, Tanner often mixed his strong religious convictions with his job. Not afraid of controversy, while he braved personal threats to pray on death row with mass murderer Ted Bundy, he showed no mercy in sending Aileen Wuornos to die. He had won and then lost the State Attorney's job once after publicly crusading against pornography. He returned humbled to win back the job, easily winning several elections without opposition. Until now."
I'm no lawyer, but anyone who wants to use the bible to substantiate their position on a case before a court of law doesn't belong in that courtroom ... and probably doesn't belong practicing law. I sure as hell wouldn't want one representing me, and if he was on the other side of the case, I'd be talking with my representative about objections to any such mention of the bible or other putatively "holy" text in the context of a trial.
The interesting part is that a recent study showed that Christians are big liars when it comes to monetary matters. This guy was making a ton of money off his position of authority, so who is he to ask others to judge someone? Doesn't his "good book" say "Judge not lest you be judged"? Seems to me the voters judged him and found him lacking in moral character.
We can't get justice if law enforcement, lawyers, judges and juries decide based on religion. Our laws do not come from religion, they come from laws, initiated and passed by our representatives. This kills our nation. What does USA stand for if it does not stand on principles of justice. It guarantees no peace.
Enjoyed reading that