Little Leniency for Woman Who Burned Her Newborn

What role does mental illness play in criminal sentencing?

Women go through a lot during and after pregnancy. One can experience all types of positive and negative feelings during this time. But, the urge to hurt a child is usually linked to some type of mental illness. If a woman has this urge and succeeds in injuring or killing her child, she will likely face criminal charges. What role will her mental illness in her criminal case? We might find answers in a recent case coming out of the State of New Jersey.

On January 16, 2015, Hyphernkemberly Dorvilier of Pemberton Township gave birth to a baby girl in the bathroom of her home. The pregnancy, allegedly a result of sexual assault, had been hidden from her family. Hours after delivering the child, Dorvilier wrapped her in a towel and papers, covered her in WD-40 and set her on fire. When questioned by passersby she claimed she was burning dog feces.  But, the child’s cries caused neighbors to call the police. The child was taken to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and unfortunately died there.

Dorvilier was later charged with murder and has since been incarcerated at the county jail. During this time, Dorvilier and her attorneys have been claiming mental illness as a justification for her crime. They used these claims of mental illness to ask for leniency from the court. A plea deal was recently reached and Dorvilier pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and must serve 85% of her sentence before she is eligible for parole. While she beat a murder conviction, the court was only as lenient as it felt it could be in this case. Superior Court Judge Terrence Cook noted that this crime was against the weakest of the weak and spoke about Dorvilier’s options including the New Jersey Safe Haven law. It is unclear how Dorvilier’s alleged mental illness affected the court’s decision.

If you have been charged with murder or any other crime, you need an experienced attorney by your side. Contact a Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorney today.