Justices allow new hearings in North Carolina capital cases

Interns run behind a line of security outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, to reveal the court's decision declaring that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has left in place lower court rulings ordering hearings over jurors in two North Carolina death penalty trials who reached beyond the jury room for biblical references to help their deliberations.

The justices on Monday rejected North Carolina’s appeal of the two rulings by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia.

In one case, a juror called her father in search of a biblical verse to help her decide between life and death for defendant Jason Wayne Hurst, who was sentenced to death for the 2002 shooting death of an acquaintance in Asheboro, North Carolina. The father pointed her to a verse containing the phrase “an eye for an eye.”

The appeals court ordered hearings to determine if jurors were improperly influenced.

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