Local religious leaders are urging a new trial for a local killer, on the grounds that he was convicted and sentenced to death after a potential juror was dismissed from the jury solely on the basis that she is a Christian, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Christopher Young is facing execution for the murder of the owner of the Mini Mart Food Store on East Southcross back in 2004.When attorneys picked a jury for Hibbs, the prosecutors dismissed the woman from the panel because her church operates a 'prison ministry.'
Retired Bishop Robert Hibbs of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, says to decline to allow Christians, or members of any other religious group, a place on a jury because their faith calls on them to minister to convicts is unfair."
The assumption that individuals in a religious group are incapable or unwilling to make judgments apart from their denominational confessional proclamations is wrong," Bishop Hibbs said.
More than 500 reliegious leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic faiths are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether this case amounts to religious discrimination.
The juror who was rejected is a Baptist, and works with her church's Outreach Ministries Program.
Bishop Hibbs and other church leaders stress that their strong position in support of a new trial for Young is not demonstrating opposition to capital punshment, nor is it a comment on the guilt or innocence of Young. They simply say that it should not be 'acceptable to exclude someone from serving as a juror in a death penalty trial merely because of the church the person belongs to.'
Hibbs says excluding the juror is 'unacceptable stereotyping' of religious people."In every group there are divergences and competing understanding of the faith they hold."
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to take up the issue in conference next month."
The government struck down his juror, not because of her personal beliefs, but solely because she was affiliated with a ministry that works to improve the lives of the poor, the elderly and the incarcerated," Young's lawyers wrote in their petition. "Indeed, the government struck this juror even though she did not personally work with prisoners, she was removed, in short, because of her mere association with a church that pursued its mission of aiding the weak.'