Taunton -- Karen E. Robidoux was so emotionally controlled by the "evil" people whose religious faith she shared, her lawyer argued yesterday in his final appeal to jurors, that she could not save her starving baby, who died after Robidoux complied with a sect decision that the child should receive no solid food.
"It wasn't about religion," defense attorney Joseph Krowski said of the Attleboro sect led by Karen's husband, Jacques, and his father, Roland. "It was about power. It was about mind control. It was about brainwashing."
But the prosecutor who wants Karen Robidoux convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her son, Samuel, argued that the baby is the only victim in the case, a child who died three days before his first birthday in April 1999 after being denied solid food for 51 days.
"Samuel Robidoux did not batter his mother," said Bristol Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea, who won a first-degree murder conviction against Jacques Robidoux in his son's death. "Samuel Robidoux turned for what every child should be able to turn to their mother and father for: shelter and protection and food."
In his closing argument to jurors, who began deliberations yesterday afternoon, Krowski said that Karen Robidoux was trapped inside an Attleboro sect whose leaders were bent on forcing her to comply with "leadings" they say came directly from God.
Krowski said Robidoux had spent her adult life as a member of the sect, which believed that modern medicine, the courts, and the government are Satanic systems.
He argued that the responsibility for Samuel's death rests with sect leaders, including the "vile, deranged, evil" Roland Robidoux.
In March 1999, a sect member, Michelle Mingo, had a "leading" that God wanted to punish Karen Robidoux for being vain. Mingo declared that God wanted Samuel to be breast-fed only, though he had begun eating solid food. His then-pregnant mother was ordered to subsist on a diet of almond milk.
Shea urged the jury of eight men and four women to find that Robidoux knowingly withheld food from her son for seven weeks. "Karen Robidoux made a choice," he said. "She chose her husband and her faith instead of her child."
Krowski called as witnesses two mental health specialists who said they believed Robidoux was an emotionally battered woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Robidoux did not testify.
Charlotte E. Denton, a Department of Mental Health forensic psychologist, testified yesterday that the order that Robidoux breast-feed Samuel every hour, 24 hours a day, may have drastically impaired her ability to make rational decisions.