Taunton -- For perhaps the final time in several weeks, if not months, the second-floor courtroom in Taunton Superior Court was quiet. There were no television vans on the surrounding iced streets, no reporters occupying the courtroom's final rows and no lawyers holding daily news conferences.
That should change today, when the highly-anticipated infanticide trial of Karen Robidoux begins at 9 a.m. with jury selection.
Robidoux's infant son starved to death almost five years ago, allegedly at the hands of his parents, then both members of an Attleboro-based religious sect known as "The Body." Karen's husband, Jacques, was convicted in June 2002 of first-degree murder in Samuel Robidoux's death and sentenced to life in prison.
Known as "The Body," the sect, led by Jacques' father, Roland Robidoux, rejects modern medicine, courts, government and schools.
Karen Robidoux is being charged with second-degree murder in the 1999 death of her 11-month-old son. The judge reportedly postponed the trial's opening from Tuesday until today for personal reasons.
Karen's lawyer, Brockton-based Joseph Krowski, is expected to use a battered- woman defense, but not within the usual framework of an intimate couple.
Krowski is instead likely to suggest a pattern of abuse against Karen Robidoux by fellow sect members, with whom she had a near-lifelong affiliation. Krowski has said that Robidoux lacked the free will to make personal decisions outside the sect's beliefs and rules.
Earlier this month, Karen's defense sought unsuccessfully to have Jacques Robidoux testify during her trial. Jacques responded at a recent hearing that if he took the stand, he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Jacques' lawyer, Francis O'Boy, who is not handling the automatic appeal that is required with any life sentence, advised his client that any testimony could hurt him in future defenses.
Jacques Robidoux's testimony from his own trial, however, will be allowed as evidence into Karen's trial.
In early March 1999, Jacques Robidoux's sister and fellow sect member, Michelle Mingo, allegedly instructed Jacques and Karen that it was God's will that Samuel be taken off solid foods and given only water and whatever breast milk his pregnant and emotionally distressed mother could provide.
Mingo's alleged instructions were said to have been prompted by a vision from God.
Through the 51 days following Mingo's vision, Samuel slowly starved to death, expiring on April 26, 1999, three days before his first birthday.
According to published reports, the child's remains, after being stored for a time in the basement of a sect's member's Seekonk home, were taken to a state park in Maine for a secret burial and were not located by police until October 2000.
The remains of Samuel and another sect baby, Jeremiah Corneau, who was stillborn, have remained unclaimed in a morgue in Boston since that time.
Krowski said last month that Karen Robidoux has severed all ties with the sect and is spending most of her time with family members in several New England states, including Rhode Island. She is also receiving post-cult treatment in New Bedford addressing her ties to the sect.