The Beagleys are members of the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church that embraces faith healing rather than medical care.
When their son became ill in March 2008 and again that June, they prayed over him and made sure he was warm, comfortable and well-fed. They testified that they offered to take him to a doctor, but he refused, saying he wanted to put his faith in God.
In closing arguments Friday, Wayne Mackeson, who represents Jeffrey Beagley, walked the jury through testimony from doctors who said Neil suffered from an array of nonspecific symptoms that did not indicate death was a possibility. They were warning signs any well-meaning parent could miss, he said.
Prosecutors said Neil Beagley’s fate was sealed when he was born. His undetected medical condition caused urine to back up into his body and eventually destroyed his kidneys. He also was born into a family that believed using medical doctors showed a lack of faith in God.
The key question facing jurors is this: What would a reasonable person have done? Jurors must determine whether Neil’s death resulted from the Beagleys’ failure to be aware of substantial and unjustifiable risks and whether that failure is “a gross deviation” from what a reasonable person would observe in that situation.
The state does not have to prove that the Beagleys intended to cause Neil’s death or that they knew he was going to die.
There are also factors beyond the law that could shape the jury’s thinking: By all accounts, the Beagleys are hardworking, responsible people who love their children. Are these parents guilty of bad judgment, or are they criminals? Even if they’re guilty, do they belong in jail?