The state Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments Friday that Robidoux, 34, was brainwashed by his family’s religious beliefs when he starved his 1-year-old son to death in April 1999, thinking he was obeying God’s orders.
He was convicted in June 2002 of first-degree murder and is now serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole.
He is asking the court to overturn his verdict and grant him a new trial or reduce the charges.
“Jacques Robidoux was not competent to stand trial. He was never tested and he was never evaluated,” his appellate lawyer, Janet Pumphrey, told the justices.
Pumphrey argued that Robidoux should have been declared incompetent to stand trial and that his trial should have been delayed until he was found competent.
She also argued that Robidoux’s trial lawyer should have relied on an insanity defense because the events occurred while he was heavily influenced since early childhood by the religious beliefs of his parents.
But some members of the court appeared skeptical about that argument.
Justice John McGreaney noted that Robidoux chose not to be examined by a forensic psychologist and made a rational decision not to use an insanity defense.
“He’s a very, very bright man. But he was psychotic. He was delusional,” Pumphrey replied.
Robidoux did not want to be examined by a forensic psychologist, Pumphrey argued, because he believed the medical system was one of “Satan’s counterfeit systems.”
Pumphrey also argued that a jury acquitted Robidoux’s wife, Karen, of second-degree murder after she used a form of battered women’s syndrome defense and argued she was brainwashed by the cult.
The Robidouxs at the time belonged to a close-knit family religious sect which called themselves “The Body.” The group rejected modern medicine and schools, among other mainstream institutions, including the legal system.
Their son, Samuel, was starved for 51 days before he died because Robidoux thought he was following orders of God received by his sister Michelle Mingo.
Samuel’s body was kept in a bulkhead of one of the family homes for about three months before it was buried, along with the body of a stillborn cousin, in a state park in Maine.
Pumphrey said Robidoux loved his son and never believed any harm would come to him. If he died, Robidoux was so delusional he thought he could “put his hands on Samuel and bring him back to life.”
But Sharon Sullivan-Puccini, a special assistant district attorney, argued that evidence indicates Robidoux had the ability to make rational decisions at the time of the events and was competent to stand trial.
“The defendant was not brainwashed since childhood as he claims,” Sullivan-Puccini told the court, adding that the group’s beliefs only became “radical” around 1996.
She said Robidoux made a conscious decision to take the stand in his own defense, in which he took responsibility for his son’s death saying, “the buck stops here. No one could make me do anything.”
Sullivan-Puccini said Robidoux’s trial lawyer, Francis O’Boy of Taunton, used a defense questioning Samuel’s cause of death and was also able to “humanize” Robidoux by trying to show he was a scapegoat of the cult.
McGreaney agreed saying, “I really think that his defense was not so bad.”
Responding to arguments about the jury verdict in Karen Robidoux’s case, Sullivan-Puccini said the jury may have rejected her defense because they convicted her of assault and battery on a child.
The court gave no indication on when it might rule on Robidoux’s appeal.