August 14, 2012
Court Reverses Approval of Religious Insanity "Worlock" Plea For Man Who Killed Pregnant Girlfriend
New Jersey Supreme Court reverses appeals court ruling in 2005 murder case.
A man who claims that God told him to kill his pregnant girlfriend cannot plea religious insanity as a defense, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The court’s recent State v. Singleton decision reverses an appeals court ruling to give Boyce Singleton a new trial because original jurors were not instructed to consider an insanity defense based on his religious views. In New Jersey, this "deific command" defense is known as the Worlock charge, a modified insanity plea from “a defendant who claims he committed an illegal act because he was commanded to do so by God.”
The majority opinion stated that Singleton was not entitled to the Worlock charge "because the evidence does not clearly indicate that he failed to appreciate that killing [his girlfriend Michelle] Cazan was contrary to society’s morals."
Two justices concurred but argued that the Worlock charge should be rejected entirely, because it "invites a defendant to exploit a core value of our society, respect for the religious beliefs of others, for tactical advantage." Two other justices dissented, arguing that "the majority has created a test so narrow as to be essentially non-existent."
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported in 2005 that Singleton confessed to the murder but told jurors, "It was the right thing to do because it was something God was telling me to do."