June 19, 2005

Crucifixion Still Around

by Sean Sirrine

Kip Esquire from A Stitch in Haste has a post about a case of modern crucifixion reported by BBC News:

Members of the convent in north-west Romania claim Maricica Irina Cornici was possessed and that the crucifixion had been part of an exorcism ritual.

Cornici was found dead on the cross on Wednesday after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," AFP quoted the priest as saying.

"I don't understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practice in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests," Father Daniel added.

Well, sick but true. My question for all those legal minds out there is whether the priest could be charged with murder if this had happened in the U.S. A lesser charge may have to be filed because of separation of church and state, no? She decided to allow them to do this for her religious beliefs, so I'm thinking negligent homicide. Any thoughts?

June 19, 2005 02:17 AM | TrackBack

Thanks for the hat tip!

I don't get to play prosecutor too often, but here are my thoughts:

"Separation of church and state" only means that the courts will not hear ecclesiastical cases. Murder is not a religious offense (e.g., heresy); it's a criminal offense.

This has been true, with essentially no exception, all the way down to animal cruelty, which voodoo practitioners (who perform rirual animal sacrifice) have (unsuccessfully) claimed is protected under the First Amendment.

As long as the law does not differentiate among religions (e.g., "every religion may crucify its own members, except Romanian Orthodox Christians") and as long as the penal provision otherwise satisfies due process, then the law is valid.

Also, consent is NEVER a defense to murder; cf., attempted suicide is a crime.

The better defense is simply to argue that the priest did not have the requisite criminal intent. Under the common law, I think first-degree murder would be a stretch (no premeditation), but second-degree murder would be provable in my opinion ("reckless disregard for human life").

Under the Model Penal Code ("MPC") there is only one degree of murder and this case reaches it I think ("extreme indifference to human life").

At the very least, the priest would be guilty of common law involuntary manslaughter (negligence resulting in death) or MPC manslaughter (again there is only one degree, which includes "conscious disregard of grave risk").

Posted by: KipEsquire at June 19, 2005 08:38 AM
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