(RNS) A New Jersey man who claimed God made him kill his pregnant girlfriend will get a new trial because jurors deciding his case should have been allowed to hear special instructions about an insanity defense, an appellate panel has ruled.
The three-judge panel tossed out the conviction and 50-year sentence of Boyce Singleton Jr. on Monday (Feb. 28) because it said the trial judge should have allowed the jury to consider an insanity defense.
During Singleton’s trial in 2008, Superior Court Judge Patricia LeBon gave the general instructions that jurors could reach a guilty verdict on a murder charge if they found the defendant knew the killing was wrong.
But, the appellate panel said, LeBon should have told jurors they could acquit Singleton by reason of insanity—even if they found Singleton knew killing Michelle Cazan was wrong—if they believed he felt God compelled him to act.
“It was for the jury to find the facts and determine whether the defendant believed God commanded him to kill Michelle,” Judge Clarkson Fisher Jr. wrote for the appeals court. “And it was for the judge to provide instructions depending upon how the jury might find the facts.”
Singleton, now 32, admitted he fatally shot and stabbed Cazan in their home in Mansfield Township on Sept. 13, 2005. Testifying during his 10-day trial, Singleton told jurors, “It was the right thing to do because it was something God was telling me to do.”
(MaryAnn Spoto writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)