PRESS RELEASE For release: 13 January 1993 A Houston criminal case resulted in a mistrial

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PRESS RELEASE For release: 13 January 1993 A Houston criminal case resulted in a mistrial today because one of the jurors was an Atheist, according to reports received by the National Office of American Atheists. The individual was called for jury duty in the 209th District, in the court of Judge Michael McSpadden, at 10:30 A.M., Wednesday, January 13. The statutory juror's oath was administered, including "So Help Me God." Afterwards, the juror informed the judge that he was an Atheist and thus the oath, which he had taken, was inapplicable to him. He was informed that it was acceptable nonetheless. Later, the jury was dismissed and a mistrial declared because there was a fault in the selection process. As explained to the nonbeliever, the problem was that the Atheist should have been "weeded" out earlier and not permitted on the jury because he could not take the juror's oath "So Help Me God." The defense attorney had made the motion for mistrial in the case, which was that of an accused sexual offender. The judge noted that this was the first time that a mistrial had occurred in his court because of an Atheist's being on the jury. American Atheists has tried to challenge the Texas mandatory oaths for jurors in three separate federal lawsuits. One was the result of the 1987 jailing of Robin Murray-O'Hair, executive secretary of the group, when she refused to take an oath "So help me God." In Texas, witnesses are not required to take religious oaths, though jurors must. Until 1982, Article I, Sect. 4 of the Texas Constitution forbade Atheists from holding any public office. The provision was found to be unconstitutional as a result of an American Atheist lawsuit. American Atheists does wish to pursue this situation. As Robin Murray-O'Hair notes, "This situation is typical of the second-class citizenship which Atheists have in Texas. It is time for the state to enter the 20th century in its treatment of nonbelievers." Founder Madalyn O'Hair and President Jon G. Murray will be in Houston tomorrow and will be available for comments. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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