Attleboro -- The state Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments Friday that an Attleboro religious cult father was brainwashed when he starved his 1-year-old son to death in 1999. Jacques Robidoux, 34, who is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for first-degree murder, wants the high court to either overturn the jury's verdict and grant him a new trial or reduce the verdict. Robidoux was found guilty in June 2002 of starving his son, Samuel, in the bizarre belief that he was following the orders of God received by his sister Michelle Mingo.
"He should have been declared insane," his appellate lawyer Janet Pumphrey said. Pumphrey argues in a 56-page brief to the SJC that Robidoux was steeped in his parents' religious beliefs from an early age and was subjected to mind control at the time his son was starved to death in April 1999. At the time of his son's death, Robidoux's religious beliefs were so extreme he believed that if any harm came to his son from restricting his diet "he could bring the child back to life," according to the brief.
The group, which called itself "The Body," was close knit and made up mostly of two families. Pumphrey said Robidoux's trial lawyer, Francis O'Boy of Taunton, should have pursued an insanity defense even though Robidoux rejected it because O'Boy was aware of Robidoux's beliefs and should have questioned his competence to stand trial. Robidoux rejected using the insanity defense and would not submit to an examination by a psychologist because he believed the medical system was controlled by Satan, according to the brief.
His wife, Karen Robidoux, used a form of battered women's syndrome defense, arguing that she was brainwashed by the cult. She won acquittal of a second-degree murder charge but was convicted of assault on a child. Pumphrey also argued that the trial court judge, Elizabeth Donovan, improperly allowed testimony at trial which was prejudicial to Jacques Robidoux. Donovan denied a previous appeal by Robidoux, which was based on similar grounds. She said Robidoux's rejection of the insanity defense on religious grounds did not mean he was incompetent to stand trial.
The Bristol County District Attorney's Office is opposing Robidoux's appeal to the SJC. Sharon Sullivan-Puccini, a special assistant district attorney, argues in a 55-page brief that Robidoux was competent to stand trial and chose to reject an insanity defense.
The prosecutor also wrote there was evidence at trial that Robidoux "did not suffer lifelong brainwashing and cult control" and took responsibility for his conduct when he testified in his own defense. Sullivan-Puccini argued that Robidoux understood the legal proceedings and was able to assist O'Boy with his defense.