The details were numbingly horrible from the start: a 4 year old girl, the subject of a bitter custody battle, witnessed her father gunned down in front of her in a Queens, New York park. Both her parents were doctors and both were immigrants from Russia.
Before long, the mother and her cousin were charged in the 2007 murder and, over the course of the trial, the issue of religion emerged in a way that few could have anticipated. The defendants, who became increasingly devoted to Orthodox Judaism while awaiting trail, refused to appear in court on the Sabbath and laced their defense in religious language.
They were convicted of murder in March and sentenced to life without parole on Tuesday. Today’s New York Times reports that the religious imagery at the sentencing came from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and Confucius. “I didn’t kill nobody in my life,” Mikhail Mallayev told the court.
“I live by the Ten Commandments. You both laugh on that,” he said, accusing the judge and prosecutor in broken English of mocking his piety. “I feel comfortable with myself. I’m good in front of myself and in front of God.”
The judge, Robert J. Hanophy, had his own religious references.
“Mr. Mallayev, you took the 20,000 pieces of silver to murder Dr. Malakov,” the judge said, referring to the $20,000 that prosecutors say Dr. Borukhova paid for the killing. “You say you’re a religious man. There’s a man in the New Testament who says, ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loseth his soul?’”
Then the judge turned to the co-defendant, Mazoltuv Borukhova, and added:
“You set out on a journey for revenge because a judge had the temerity to give custody of your child to your husband.”
Quoting Confucius, he said, “A person who sets out on a path of revenge should first dig two graves.”
Aside from being compelling quotes, the Times was right in quoting the religious language. The defense has already said that it will appeal the case on the basis that the judge showed bias against the religious beliefs of the defendants.