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Parents convicted in ‘faith healing’ death of daughter seek new trial


ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday February 15, 2011

The parents convicted in the death of the their diabetic daughter are seeking a new trial because they claim jurors never heard their faith healing defense, the Wisconsin Radio Network reports.

Separate juries convicted Dale and Leilani Neumann in 2009 of their daughter Kara’s reckless homicide the year before. The 11-year-old girl became too sick to eat, drink, walk or talk and died on Easter Sunday 2008 from what doctors said was a treatable case of diabetes. Leilani was represented by Gene Linehan, who died last year. Dale was represented by Jay Kronenwetter.

Attorneys representing the Neumanns on appeal have separately filed motions asking for a new trial on similar grounds. The motions suggest that the Neumanns’ trial attorneys were ineffective because they failed to argue that the parents’ sincere belief in faith healing was a complete defense.

“A reasonable attorney would have objected to a set of [jury] instructions that obscured one of the main defenses in this case,” Leilani Neumann’s attorney Byron Lichstein writes in a 15-page motion. Lichstein is the director of the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Criminal Appeals Project.

Neumann’s attorneys also argue that Leilani Neumann’s original defense attorney, Gene Linehan suffered from failing health conditions during the trial limiting his abiility to perform effectively.

The attorneys say Linehan failed to lay out a defense based on the parents’ belief in faith healing, instead focusing on the belief that Dale and Leilani were unaware of how sick their daughter was.

Because Linehan passed away in September 2010, Judge Vincent Howard has to rely on the testimony of people who worked closely with Linehan during the trial, to decide whether the representation was ineffective. [...]

The appellate attorneys have to prove that Linehan’s health directly affected his trial performance and that there would be a different result in a new trial.

The prosecution argues that niether of those burdens of proof have been met.

WSAU says:

Marathon County Judge Vincent Howard will hear testimony in Dale’s case February 22nd and review written briefs before ruling in both cases. A decision is expected by mid-April.

Linehan was tired, short of breath and admitted taking Vicodin to treat back pain, said defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter, who represented Dale but worked closely with Linehan.

“He [Linehan] was worse for wear during the trial,” Kronenwetter said. “I was concerned that his trial skills would be impacted,” he added, saying that Linehan waved him off when he suggested asking Howard to adjourn the trial.

According to The Daily Tribune:

When pressed Monday by Leilani Neumann’s appeals attorney, Byron Lichstein, Kronenwetter said he wasn’t sure whether Linehan’s health affected his defense.

Linehan’s former legal assistant, David Shea, said Linehan’s health absolutely hurt his abilities in court. [...]

Kronenwetter testified that Linehan failed to have a judge read the jury a document that would clearly have demonstrated the Neumanns’ belief in faith healing and he did not object to law definitions provided to the jury. Kronenwetter also said Linehan thought Leilani Neumann’s case could be appealed after Howard refused to allow a faith healing expert to testify at trial.

“(Leilani) consistently maintained that she never thought Kara was going to die,” Kronenwetter testified. “(The Neumanns) had faith that what they were doing would heal her.”

Howard will have another hearing Feb. 22 to hear Dale Neumann’s request for a new trial. The Neumanns were sentenced to six months in jail, but those terms are on hold pending the appeals.

Howard will make a decision on the new trial requests before April 14.

The Neumann’s were sentenced in October 2009:

Research resources on faith healing

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