UPDATE: Wis. Supreme Court hears arguments over child's death - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Wis. Supreme Court hears arguments over child's death

MADISON (WKOW) -- State supreme court justices Tuesday heard arguments over the homicide convictions of two Weston parents, whose 11-year old daughter died after they chose prayer over medical care to try to help the ill child.

Attorneys for parents Dale and Leilani Neumann said the couple never received notice the immunity in child abuse law to allow for prayer treatment did not extend to the circumstances of their daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann.

Neumann died from uncontrolled diabetes on March 23, 2008.

"Prayer treating parents are told, 'You can do this, even when the going is really, really rough.' But on the other hand, when prayer fails, they're prosecuted for homicide. It's a trap," said Byron Lichstein, Leilani Neumann's attorney.

Attorneys for the parents also said the trial judge failed to approve jury instructions to include the standard of care expected of parents who relied on prayer instead of conventional medicine.

(Jurors) Never had any instruction that there was, in fact, a privilege to substituting spiritual treatment for medical care," said Steven Miller, Dale Neumann's attorney.

But an assistant attorney general said the parents should have known any immunity from legal responsibility for choosing prayer over medical procedures ended when the girl's condition deteriorated and prayer alone was creating an unreasonable, grave health risk.

"They created an unreasonable, or substantial risk of death," Assistant Attorney General Maura Whelan said.

The girl lapsed in what was believed to be a coma in her final hours.

Attorneys involved say several states have laws providing some level of immunity to parents eschewing conventional medicine for a faith approach.

The Neumanns were not in court Tuesday. Their sentences include jail terms, but they have remained free as their appeals have run their course.


MADISON (WKOW) -- A Wisconsin couple convicted of second degree reckless homicide in the death of their daughter hopes the state Supreme Court clears them of any wrongdoing.

Dale and Leilani Neumann's daughter had treatable diabetes, but became gravely ill in March 2008. Rather than get her medical attention, the Weston couple prayed over her until she died on Easter Sunday. They were both convicted of second degree reckless homicide.

The Neumann's lawyers say Wisconsin statutes permit parents to treat their children through prayer and that protects them from prosecution even if the child dies. Prosecutors say the right doesn't extend to inflicting death.

The two sides will present oral arguments to the Supreme Court in Madison Tuesday.


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