A jury in Dedham, Mass., has awarded $1.3 million to a woman who claimed she was brainwashed by the Hare Krishna movement, and to her mother.
The Norfolk County Superior Court jury handed down the award this week to Susan Murphy Erickson, 28, of South Boston, and her mother Mary Murphy, 59, of Dorchester, Mass.
The jury compensated the two women for the emotional stress they endured during the mid-1970s when Erickson was a member of the Hare Krishna sect. They jointly filed suit in 1977.
Erickson left her family at 14 to join the sect. She returned home at 16 after her mother discovered the group's alleged plan to send her daughter to West Germany on a forged passport, testimony in the five-week trial revealed.
Erickson, now a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, said she was forced to eat spoiled food, beg for money in bar rooms and have sex with her Krishna husband against her will.
An attorney for the Krishna organization said the verdict is almost certain to be appealed if post-trial motions are denied.
Judge Robert Banks is scheduled to decide if the two women can claim an attachment on land that the Krishnas own in Boston, which is valued at $1.5 million, and to determine whether the sect can be considered a charitable organization and therefore be liable only for $25,000 of the damages.