Voodoo Fire Ritual Nearly Kills Little Girl June 20, 2009

Voodoo Fire Ritual Nearly Kills Little Girl

A couple months ago, Marie Lauradin did something horrible to her only child.

She took rum, sprayed it in a circle around her naked six-year-old daughter, poured some on the girl’s head, and then lit the rum on fire.

As the flames covered her body, she screamed in agony. Her mother and grandmother just ignored her.

It was a full day before relatives convinced the mother to take the girl to the hospital.

The girl thankfully didn’t die, but she has second- and third-degree burns covering 25% of her body. The scars will be with her for life.

So why did the mother commit this awful crime? She was just following the rituals of her faith.

The sentencing has finally taken place and there will be some justice for the little girl (who is now in foster care):

Lauradin, a 29-year-old Haitian immigrant, was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

“She denies these allegations,” lawyer Jeff Cohen said. “This is my client’s only child. My client would not hurt her.”

Lauradin listened impassively as the judge ordered her held in lieu of $50,000 bail. She was also barred from having any contact with her daughter.

Frantzcia’s grandmother, Sylvenie Thessier, 70, was charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

They say nothing about sending the mother to a mental institution where she belongs.

I can’t understand the mother’s mindset.

Why would a mother burn her child, even for religious reasons? How messed up must you be to put religious beliefs over common sense and human decency?

If you think this mother did something unspeakable and deserves all sorts of punishments, how is this different from the Bible story in which we’re told to admire Abraham for being willing to kill his son Isaac?

And how could any lawyer defend a mother who almost killed her child on purpose? I understand there are public defenders, but does he actually think she’s without fault here?

(Thanks to Alan for the link!)

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  • As horrible as this is, it is essential that every client has representation. If attorneys only defended those they thought were innocent, then the whole system would be way out of whack. The purpose of a defender is to ensure that the defendant’s rights are safeguarded against overzealous prosecutors. It’s part of the whole “Innocent until proven guilty” concept of American criminal law. That being said, I would bet that this defender will not want to go to trial and will instead urge a guilty plea in exchange for a specific sentence. Only a fool would try to take this to court as a “Free Exercise” clause case.

    Yes, this is heinous. Yes, this mother deserves punishment, but the whole idea of a free society is that the rights of even the most horrible person must be safeguarded as much as yours and mine. Due process sometimes sucks, but I just want it to be there for me when I need it.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Hemant, If you really think that only people “without fault” should get defense attorneys, you’re envisioning a totally different legal system than we have now. And, I might add, a pretty horrible legal system. (Hello, Guantanamo!)

    Maybe this woman is actually innocent. You seem like you have good judgment, Hemant, but I’d like some due process and a fair trial before I conclude that a woman should be locked up, rather than basing it on what you’ve read in a newspaper article. But even if she’s not innocent, she’s entitled to have someone explain to the judge and the jury all the ways in which the law supports her not getting whatever sentence the prosecutor wants. Maybe her defense attorney could get her the psychiatric treatment that you want her to get.

  • Hemant

    To be clear, I know she does have a right to a lawyer. I just wonder if the lawyer really believes she’s innocent here… Or is he just doing his job in defending her?

  • I’ve never understood how defense attorneys sleep at night. Especially when the client (which is most likely the case here) is beyond a shadow of a doubt guilty.

    In response to your question Hemant, I sincerely hope he’d just doing his job. My sanity depends on him not buying her drivel.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I don’t know what the lawyer believes, I don’t think it’s really relevant. Unless he knows for a fact that she’s guilty, if she claims she’s innocent, the lawyer should present the arguments for that claim, so long as he doesn’t present claims that he knows to be false. I’m not just saying that’s her legal right; I’m saying that it’s desirable, and that it’s not reasonable to ask things like “how could any lawyer defend [her]?”

    Why are you so sure that this woman is guilty? If I had to guess, I’d guess that she’s guilty, but I wouldn’t assume it, based just on what I’ve read in a newspaper article.

  • One of the things that I learned from taking a criminology course (undergrad) from a defense attorney is that they often despise the person and the crime, but as officers of the court they are also obligated to practice their profession in the best interest of their clients. They are supposed to separate their feelings from their practice when performing their duties. It’s like a doctor or a surgeon, whose personal feelings may be opposed to causing people pain. They know that a procedure is likely to cause discomfort and pain to the patient but overall in the patient’s best interest. A defense attorney needs to set aside his or her discomfort, needs not to be the judge, jury nor prosecutor.

  • Maurice van Steensel

    Shows the dangers of religious belief is all.

  • how is this different from the Bible story in which we’re told to admire Abraham for being willing to kill his son Isaac?

    …or God, who was willing to kill Jesus. I’d actually say this is the essential issue with religion — beyond it’s non-real metaphysics: the idea that sacrifice is a good thing to be admired. And I’d say there’s a lot of secular philosophy that denies religion… but still holds onto this central, awful idea.

  • keddaw

    Is this really worse than circumcision?

    Can we put parents and doctors aways for performing medically unnecessary genital mutilation of children? Please…

    btw. drug dealer often despise their clients, but service their needs anyway.

  • StephanieB

    Yes, keddaw, 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 25% of your body is worse than circumcision. Way worse. Sheesh.

  • Frank

    As far as the lawyer thing, there is a reason the bill of rights specifically protects the right to an attorney. Logically, the legal system has to treat innocent and guilty defendants alike until a determination of guilt has been made, and a trial is precisely the mechanism by which that determination is made. To give lawyers to only innocent defendants, someone would have to be determining, before the trial, which defendants were innocent and which were guilty. It would mean taking the judgment of guilt out of the juries hands and giving it to someone else, it would mean essentially doing away with the right to a trail by a jury of ones peers. And I don’t like that idea very much. A lawyer doesn’t have to believe in the innocence of his client to put on the best defense he can, he just has to believe in the legal system that says that every person accused of a crime has a right to have their case (not just the prosecutors) heard by a jury of their peers. And these lawyers are people who spent three years in law school being indoctrinated into this American legal culture, and probably liked the legal system to begin with (why else would they have gone to law school?)

    Consider this scenario: tomorrow, all nine supreme court justices retire, and Obama appoints the most wonderful liberal court imaginable. The day after tomorrow, the court unanimously, without hearing any arguments or reading any briefs or doing anything at all that might resemble considering an argument, decides that gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right under the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. Good or bad? Obviously we’d all agree with the decision, but wouldn’t the lack of rational argumentation bother you a bit? After all, if the court can protect gay marriage without giving the issue any real thought one day, it can reverse itself just as quickly the following day. And the day after that it can outlaw abortion with equal lack of evidence and argument. My point is that we don’t just want a court system that will hand down the the right decision on one issue or another, we want a court system that will consider the evidence and rational arguments before making a decision, so that it will consistently make the right decision, and that principle applies just as much to criminal as constitutional law. The defense attorney is a critical part of the process by which courts consider the evidence and rational arguments, so how could you not want the defense attorney to be there making his arguments? And if you dedicate your life to furthering the work of this court system that makes a point of considering evidence and rational arguments before taking away anyones freedom, why would you not be willing to play your part by presenting arguments for the acquittal of a person you personally think is guilty?

    It is interesting, though, that when religion leads people to physically abuse their children, when there are physical scars to show a judge, even religious people have no problem protecting the child. But when the abuse is purely mental, denying the child a high school education, the supreme court unanimously upholds the right of a certain class of religious parents to abuse their children in that way (Yoder v Wisconsin).

  • Hemant, you’ve clearly, to your credit probably, not spent much time around criminal courts. Of course the public defender doesn’t believe she has a religious right to burn her child to death any more than you do. He’s doing an incredibly difficult job, and deserves our thanks. The PDs are one of the most under-appreciated pillars of our civilization. It’s their job to ensure that everyone, no matter how poor or uneducated, receives their full measure of justice.

    Without the public defenders office our legal system would collapse. Justice would only be available to those who could afford to pay for it. And BTW, they are not compensated very well either. It’s about the least amount of money one can make with a Juris Doctorate. They are only doing it because they recognize the vital role they play and take that as compensation. It sure as heck ain’t the pay or prestige!

  • David

    I was going to make comments very like those already here about the right to an attorney, but as others have communicated that part so well:

    Most defense attorneys are doing their job out of a profound respect for human rights.

    Prosecutors and judges can become politicians and brag about how they have kept the community safe by locking away dangerous criminals.

    Defense attorneys who try to become politicians would be out of the race the moment someone asks “Do you feel proud having gotten this client off who has committed more crimes since?”

    It doesn’t matter to public opinion how many innocent people they keep out of jail, or how many perversions of justice they managed to prevent.

    And: No, I’m not a defense attorney.

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