A Texas man who was convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old girl is appealing his death sentence on the grounds that the prosecution used information about his affiliation with the Church of Satan to influence jurors. While Irving Davis’ guilt in this crime is not in doubt, the way his chosen faith was inserted into the sentencing hearing should raise a few eyebrows.
“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.”
Prosecution is arguing that the Satanism material was relevant because it shows he is a “continuing threat to society”, and therefore should be given the death penalty instead of merely life in prison. So far the judges in this appeal don’t seem to be taking the matter all that seriously, and are confusing a hypothetical theistic Satanism with the atheistic self-glorifying Church of Satan.
“I mean, come on, boil it all down, the Church of Satan?” Judge Michael Keasler said. “You’ve got to be kidding me as to how that’s good, because Satan himself, at least as far as Christian doctrine is concerned, is the epitome of what evil is. If somebody chooses to align themselves with something like that, it certainly would seem relevant.” Musing aloud, Judge Lawrence Meyers asked if Satanism should be considered a religion at all, because religions revolve around worshipping a higher power. “Satan’s not an almighty being,” Meyers said.
As for the Church of Satan itself, representatives from the Church have made it clear on past occasions that it wants nothing to do with murderers and criminals.
“Satanism prohibits the harming of children and animals. The Church of Satan does not endorse, and will terminate the membership of those who commit, criminal activity … One fact about the religion of Satanism that might be of interest is that Satanists do not do forgiveness…”
Tempting as it may be to simply say good riddance to this monster, it does seem that the prosecution used the Church of Satan affiliation to affect the sentencing in this trial. Certainly if Davis had converted to Wicca, Druidism, or Asatru while in prison, and the prosecution had used materials from those faiths out of context to imply that he was a “continuing threat to society”, it would be very concerning to our community. As the defense attorney asserts, this may very well be “an improper attempt to criminalize beliefs that society finds offensive or disagreeable”. That the judges don’t seem to be seriously considering that matter and are instead theorizing about how powerful Satan is, we can be justly worried that they would be similarly dismissive of other minority faiths in other cases.