Friday, April 29, 2011

Does This Woman Look Like a Murderer?

I don’t know how I missed this story. But it happened. Although I could have sworn that I saw an episode of Law and Order that had a similar story. An Orthodox Jewish woman, a Bukharan immigrant with the unlikely name of Mazoltuv Borukhova (pictured) was – together with her cousin, Mikhail Mallayev - convicted of murdering her husband in 2007. He was the ‘hit-man’ and she was the one who hired him to do it for her. They both received a life sentence. I only know about it now because of a Forward article - a review by Eli Gottlieb of a book written by investigative reporter Janet Malcolm.

This story is truly mind boggling. How can a woman who is meticulous enough in her religious observance to cover her hair as a married woman conspire to kill her estranged husband?! The answer lies in a mind boggling perverse decision by a judge based on a custody dispute over their 4 year old daughter. From the Forward review:

Incredibly, this judicial folly was based nearly entirely on the fact that, during court-ordered family visits at a private agency, run by social workers, the child was viewed as clingy and dependent on the mother, and unwilling or unable to relate to her biological father. The result — that the child should be removed permanently from the mother and sent to live with the father — flies in the face of reason, for even the father himself didn’t want full custody. Apparently, plans were underway for him to try to mitigate or reverse the decision. But before he could act, or have his plans made known to his ex-wife, something evidently snapped in Mazoltuv’s mind, and she set out on her bloody revenge.

OK. I have sympathy for this woman. She was wronged by the system in my mind. Egregiously so it seems. But still… premeditated murder?! And she covers her hair?! The answer must be that she indeed snapped. She lost sight of all reality and indeed despaired at the injustice of losing her daughter and tried to do something about it.

But instead of pleading not guilty of the crime in the face of massive evidence against her, she should have pleaded temporary insanity. But then again, I’m not a lawyer. Is her sentence fair? I can’t really answer the question. It would seem that justice would be better served by getting her treated by expert mental health professionals. On the other hand I don't really know her.

The one thing that I think is fairly obvious is that New York State Supreme Court judge Sidney Strauss who issued that order ought to be thrown off the bench for incompetence and perhaps even prosecuted for judicial misconduct. He didn’t pull the trigger. He didn’t plan the murder. But he certainly had a hand in the break from reality this Bukharan woman suffered. Think about how many lives were ultimately ruined by his decision. I wonder how he sleeps at night.