In a legal system in which you can pluck out your own eye and eat it and still be sufficiently sane to execute, it should not be a surprise that some damned odd terms creep up in plea bargains now and again. Buying a guilty plea with a bucket of fried chicken, for instance. Or the time back when I was a prosecutor when I got a tax protester to plead guilty by adding a term to the plea agreement saying that the United States was taking no official stance on whether he was a separate sovereign nation. (I sort of forgot to run that one past the front office.)
But this pushes the envelope. Ria Ramkissoon has entered a guilty plea to child abuse leading to death in the case brought after her son was starved to death. Apparently Ramkissson and other members of the One Mind Ministries — which the indelicate among us might call a cult — decided to withhold food from one-year-old Javon when he would not say "amen" after meals. How did prosecutors get her to enter a plea, and even cooperate against other cult members?
They agreed that she can withdraw her plea if Javon is resurrected, as she expects that he will be.
Ramkissoon, a member of a group called One Mind Ministries, believes Javon Thompson, her year-old son, will rise again, and as part of her plea agreement, authorities agreed to the clause.
If Ramkissoon is malingering, this strikes me as a no-harm-no-foul outcome. But if she's genuinely delusional, it strikes me as cruel and inappropriate to forge plea terms that reinforce and encourage her delusional structure. And there seem to be some genuine doubts about her capacity:
On one level, she certainly is competent to stand trial, because she does recognize that as far as her legal entanglements are concerned, this is a grand-slam resolution for her," Silverman said. "On the other hand, she's still brainwashed, she's still delusional as far as the teachings and influence of this cult, and she certainly is going to benefit with professional help and deprogramming."
Yeah, OK. She can recognize a good deal (suspended sentence if she cooperates) if it is offered to her. But is she really competent? If she believes that it was God's will that her son be starved to death so that he could be resurrected, did she appreciate the nature of her actions, and is she able to participate meaningfully in her defense? And are we only led to ask these questions because her delusions are more florid and noticeable than most of the flood of humanity that flows through our courtrooms?
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