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Charged with providing food and water to migrants in an area of the desert that has claimed the lives of at least 32 so far, Arizona teacher and humanitarian Scott Warren will not be going to prison—at least not yet. Now, people familiar with the Bible are finding particular irony in a prosecutor’s statement during the trial.
Warren was charged with three felonies last year after helping two migrants who had crossed into Arizona from Central America. He faced 20 years in prison, and his case drew international interest as a landmark decision regarding volunteer aid on the U.S. border.
After 15 hours of deliberation, the jury failed to reach a verdict on June 11.
BREAKING: HUNG JURY in the #ScottWarren case. After 15+ hours of deliberation, a hung jury was officially declared, demonstrating that there are Arizonans standing their ground for justice and kindness in a historic moment.— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) June 11, 2019
Among the celebratory responses, Twitter user Ken Klipperstein pointed out that the accusations levied by the prosecution are almost word-for-word the instructions that were given to Christians in Matthew 25:35.
“He gave them food, he gave them water, he gave them a place to stay… He did a bad thing,” prosecutor Anna Wright said in her closing argument, according to advocacy group No More Deaths, which posted live updates from the trial.
The Bible verse reads as follows: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
During the trial of a man charged with aiding undocumented migrants, the prosecutor accused him of doing almost verbatim what the Bible calls on Christians to do pic.twitter.com/73xSMh1Y6u— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) June 14, 2019
The only real difference is that Wright tacked the rather weak judgment of “he did a bad thing” onto the list of Christian virtues.
THE WORDS ARE EVEN IN THE SAME ORDER, COME ON! https://t.co/5bvFGWilbo— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) June 14, 2019
She must have thought "This phrasing seems familiar for some reason... Welp, who knows. Let's go kick over some water jugs."— Daniel (@MaximumTaco) June 14, 2019
Some wondered if it was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the case given that prosecutors generally have to work the cases they’re given, whether or not they agree with them.
Could it be intentional? Obliquely sabotaging the case?— Friendly Neighborhood Nerd (@engineerchick_) June 15, 2019
I have a feeling this was intentional— anthony gonzales (@animalgonzales) June 15, 2019
Perhaps she was actually trying to quietly help him without anyone being able to accuse her of not doing her job.— TheDCMan1968 (@DCMan1968) June 14, 2019
But a woman who says she was a witness to the trail thinks otherwise.
“The prosecutor read her script fairly well, but stumbled over her words during questioning,” the witness, Jennifer Bennett Powers, tweeted. “She definitely wanted to win the case.”
I sat in the courtroom during this trial. The prosecutor read her script fairly well, but stumbled over her words during questioning. She most definitely wanted to win the case.— Jennifer Bennett Powers (@JenBenPowers) June 15, 2019
People were pointing out that Jesus himself was born to desperate migrants.
'Literally' the night Jesus was born his folks were stumbling about Bethlehem on a donkey looking for a bed for the night, apparently tired, hungrey and needing a place to have a baby. I know irony is hard for some, but this example is spot on.— 💧Alison (@plainnotjayne) June 14, 2019
But what did Jesus' family know about fleeing to a foreign country for safety, anyway? pic.twitter.com/AFp1GWX4co— Grover's Bathtub (@GroversBathtub) June 14, 2019
Commenters also noted the irony of the court requiring Warren to swear on the Bible before attempting to prosecute him for obeying it.
Did they make him put his hand on the bible, before condemning him with the bible's own words, for doing the bible's own deeds? I am endlessly fascinated with all this bible-stuff, it's impossible to guess what might occur next!— Auja-winduR Mārs (@Zegh8578) June 14, 2019
The best part is that the defendant had to put his hand on those words and swear by them before giving testimony 🤪— Behold! The Mongoose (@ketchupagogo) June 15, 2019
Klippenstein’s tweet has now jumped to Facebook as a shareable post, so there’s likely more commentary to come.
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Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org