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Ocean Township Defendant’s Double-Murder Conviction Upheld

Two consecutive life sentences stand for the Ocean Township 40-year-old who contended that God told him to kill and dismember his grandmother and former girlfriend.

A state appellate panel affirmed Rosario Miraglia’s competence and convictions for the grisly murders of June 2004. His sentence includes no chance of parole.

Judge Paul Chaiet, now retired, imposed the sentence following a nearly month-long trial that ended in September 2008.

Miraglia appealed the convictions, arguing that the judge erred in finding him competent to stand trial, despite three competency hearings; denying a request for a bench trial by the defense attorney, to which Miraglia objected; and erring in his jury instructions with regard to Miraglia’s insanity defense.

Court documents indicate that Miraglia admitted using knives and a meat cleaver to murder and dismember his grandmother, 88, and the mother of his child, 31, claiming that he was Jesus Christ on a mission from God.

The defense, and appeal, hinged on issues of sanity. Miraglia insisted that God would instruct jurors to clear him of the charges. He had undergone three competency examinations before the case proceeded. His testimony dwelled in metaphysics, numerology and math to rationalize his contentions.

The appellate judges supported Chaiet’s reasonings, including his rebuttal to the defense lawyer who sought a bench trial that competence to represent one’s self at trial differs from competence to waive the right to trial by jury.

“Although defendant presented the delusional thinking that a deity would intervene on his behalf and instruct a jury to acquit him,” says their ruling in part, “defendant also quite rationally stated that he wanted a jury trial because ‘[w]ith 12 other individuals over here, [he] only need[ed] one of them in order to be — draw a hung jury.'”

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