Re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion?

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

Davis’ lat­est ap­peal arose af­ter the court threw out his first death sen­tence in 2007 be­cause the trial judge mis­tak­enly al­lowed only ex­pert wit­nesses — and not Davis’ fam­ily and friends — to tes­tify about whether they con­sid­ered the de­fen­dant a con­tin­u­ing dan­ger.

While pre­par­ing for the new penalty phase trial, pros­e­cu­tors learned Davis listed his new re­li­gion as Satanism af­ter ar­riv­ing on death row.

Ju­rors were shown, over de­fense ob­jec­tions, Davis’ draw­ings de­pict­ing sa­tanic sym­bols, books re­moved from his cell that in­cluded “The Sa­tanic Bi­ble” and a pen­ta­gram tat­too on his chest. Pros­e­cu­tors also in­tro­duced a griev­ance form that showed Davis com­plain­ing about be­ing de­nied a gong, can­dles, chal­ice, black robes, a vial of blood and other items he said were needed to prac­tice his re­li­gion.

Pros­e­cu­tor Lily Stroud said the ev­i­dence was meant to show that Davis had cho­sen to af­fil­i­ate with an or­ga­ni­za­tion that con­dones and en­cour­ages hu­man sac­ri­fice and other il­le­gal acts.

“I don’t be­lieve that we put on the ev­i­dence, nec­es­sar­ily, to say: ‘Well, Satanism is evil, just an evil re­li­gion, he’s evil, and so you should just put him to death,” Stroud said. “The de­fense had been try­ing to give im­pli­ca­tion that while he was on death row he was noth­ing but a paci­fist.”

But de­fense lawyer Morales said ju­rors, who again sen­tenced Davis to die, were im­prop­erly ex­posed to in­for­ma­tion de­signed to in­flame their pas­sions against Davis. The in­frac­tion was made worse, he said, be­cause it vi­o­lated the First Amend­ment’s pro­tec­tion of re­li­gious ex­pres­sion.

“The great thing about our coun­try is that we are sup­posed to have the abil­ity to choose our re­li­gion and not be per­se­cuted for it,” Morales told the court’s nine judges.

“But who’s per­se­cut­ing him?” Keasler asked. “All they’re do­ing is bring­ing ev­i­dence.”

“They are bring­ing ev­i­dence that is not viewed in a neu­tral way,” Morales re­sponded.

Mey­ers joined in by not­ing that the First Amend­ment pro­tects the free prac­tice of re­li­gion, and “no­body is deny­ing his right to prac­tice.”

“How can you say you’re pro­tected (in) prac­tic­ing your re­li­gion,” Morales said,

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