Legal experts: Cult member not criminally insane, despite odd plea
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday April 1, 2009
Experts: Cult member not insane despite odd plea
A former religious cult member who helped starve her son to death believes he will be resurrected, but legal experts say her extreme faith doesn’t make her criminally insane.
The mother made an extraordinary deal with prosecutors Monday that her guilty plea to child abuse resulting in death will be withdrawn if her 1-year-old son, Javon Thompson, comes back to life. Law experts and psychiatrists said there was no problem with the agreement because Ria Ramkissoon, 22, was mentally competent and freely entered into the deal, and extreme religious beliefs aren’t deemed insane by law.
“To say that someone is crazy because they have beliefs is very difficult,” said Dr. Jonas Rappeport, a retired forensic psychiatrist and the former chief medical officer for Baltimore Circuit Court. “If I believe that God wants me to starve my child, that gets close to the edge, but it’s very questionable as to calling that an illness that would exonerate someone for a crime.”
The boy died more than two years ago when cult members stopped feeding him because he refused to say “Amen” after a meal, according to a statement of facts.
David Gray, a law professor at the University of Maryland, said he had never heard of prosecutors making a promise they knew they wouldn’t have to keep. But he couldn’t envision a legal challenge to the plea deal.
Prosecutors are eager to have her testify because their case against the other cult members is largely circumstantial.
The plea agreement also calls for Ramkissoon to meet with Rick Ross, who has studied cults for more than 25 years and counsels former cult members.
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