Sect members cite religious objection to blood test, judge suggests compromise

Boston Herald, Tuesday, May 8, 2001 Associated Press

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - The judge hearing the case of religious sect members accused of starving their baby to death suggested a compromise Tuesday between the defendants and prosecutors seeking DNA samples to build their case. Jacques and Karen Robidoux, charged with murder in the 1999 death of their son Samuel, have said their religious beliefs prohibit them from providing blood samples that prosecutors had sought to help prove that remains found in Maine last summer are those of the couple's son. Attorneys for the Robidouxs on Tuesday cited a passage from the Bible to show their beliefs do not allow them to give up a blood sample. Prosecutors disputed the meaning of the passage.

"We're not getting into the Scripture," Judge Richard Chin told the attorneys. "What I need to find is if it's an honestly held religious belief, even if it's at odds with the majority of religion."

Chin asked if both sides would agree to a less intrusive method of obtaining a DNA sample, such as from hair or saliva. Prosecutor David Frank said the state would agree, and Frank O'Boy, the attorney for Jacques Robidoux, said his client had no objections. Sam Sutter, attorney for Karen Robidoux, said he had not yet spoken with his client about the possiblity of providing other samples. Jacques Robidoux has been charged with first-degree murder and Karen Robidoux with second-degree murder in the death of Samuel, who starved to death in April 1999 shortly before his first birthday. Both have pleaded innocent. The state also sought handwriting samples from the couple and from Michelle Mingo, Jacques Robidoux's sister, who has been charged with being an accessory to assault on the boy.

The samples are needed to compare with journals and notes that detail how the baby died, Frank said. Defense attorneys objected, saying that making their clients rewrite the journals would violate their rights against self-incrimination. Chin suggested another compromise, asking if the defendants would be willing to write out something generic, such as a passage from the Constitution. There were no objections.

Chin took both proposed solutions under advisement and scheduled a status hearing for May 18.

Outside the courtroom O'Boy said there was no question about his client's feelings on the blood samples.

"My client is an intelligent young man who has some deeply held religious beliefs. This isn't some cult in the woods of Tennessee," O'boy said. Neither parent set out to kill their baby, O'Boy has said. They believed in Mingo's "prophesy" that it was God's will to withhold food from Samuel and put him on a diet of just breast milk and almond milk. The parents of Jacques and Karen Robidoux attended Tuesday's hearing, and the family members waved to each other. The parents declined to comment on their children's beliefs.

Jacques Robidoux is being held on $500,000 bail. Karen Robidoux is being held on $100,000 and Mingo on $50,000.

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/local_regional/sect05082001.htm

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