Madeline Kara Neumann Archive

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Wisconsin Supreme Court takes faith healing death case

In a case that could define when faith healing crosses the line into criminal behavior, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of two parents convicted of homicide after opting for prayer over medical care when their daughter was dying of undiagnosed diabetes.

The Cap Times reports

The case stems from the 2008 death of 11-year-old Madeline “Kara” Neumann, who had been sick for two weeks before her death, which doctors said could have been prevented.

Her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, were convicted of second-degree reckless homicide in separate trials. In October of 2009 both were sentenced to 10 years probation and also ordered to spend 30 days in jail each year for six years. […]

In their appeal, the Neumanns argue that the statute that allows parents to use faith healing as a defense in abuse and neglect cases is inconsistent because it doesn’t apply to homicide.

“Due process requires that people who wish to follow the law must be able to discern the boundary between what is legal and illegal,” says a summary of the argument contained in the appellate court decision to request that the case go straight to the Supreme Court, bypassing the appellate court.

The Neumanns argue that it’s unconstitutional to condone conduct under one statute and criminalize that same conduct under another. In other words, it’s unfair to say prayer is an acceptable alternative to medical care unless it doesn’t work and the child dies.

Madeline Kara Neumann, 12, died March 23, 2008, from complications of diabetic ketoacidosis, a treatable though serious condition of type 1 diabetes in which acid builds up in the blood.

The Neumanns say they did not know their daughter had diabetes.

Leilani Neumann later told The Associated Press that the family does not belong to any organized religion or faith but believes in the Bible and said that healing comes from God.

AP noted that it had found two postings under her name on the Web site AmericasLastDays.com, which is operated by Unleavened Bread Ministries, an evangelical ministry that focuses on the apocalypse and that equates the use of medicine with what the Bible refers to as ‘witchcraft.’

A family friend testified that Leilani thought sickness was caused by sin.

More news articles about Madeline Kara Neumann
Court of Appeals CertificationPDF file
Research resources on faith healing

Appeals court recommends Supreme Court hear Neumann case

Update, May 1, 2012: A Wausau-based appeals court recommended in a written ruling released this morning that the state Supreme Court hear the case of a Weston couple and their conviction on reckless homicide charges for the 2008 death of their daughter.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports

The three appeals court judges wrote that this is the first case of its kind in Wisconsin and the issues are likely to arise again.

“We submit that it is appropriate for Wisconsin’s highest court to determine the scope of the prayer treatment exception and to inform trial courts regarding the appropriate jury instructions when that exception is raised in a reckless homicide case,” the judges wrote.

Court of Appeals Certification PDF file


Religion News Blog — An Appeals Court based in Wausau, Winconsin will release its decision today on the request by Dale and Leilani Neumann to have their convictions overturned in connection with the 2008 faith healing death of their daughter.

Oct. 6, 2009 news report on the sentencing of Dale and Leilani Neumann

Madeline Kara Neumann, 12, died March 23, 2008, from complications of diabetic ketoacidosis, a treatable though serious condition of type 1 diabetes in which acid builds up in the blood.

The Neumanns, who believe in faith healing, said they did not know she had diabetes. Instead of taking her to doctor when she fell ill, they only prayed for the girl’s recovery.

Leilani Neumann later told The Associated Press that the family does not belong to any organized religion or faith but believes in the Bible and said that healing comes from God.

AP noted that it had found two postings under her name on the Web site AmericasLastDays.com, which is operated by Unleavened Bread Ministries, an evangelical ministry that focuses on the apocalypse and that equates the use of medicine with what the Bible refers to as ‘witchcraft.’

A family friend testified that Leilani thought sickness was caused by sin.

In 2009 the Neumanns were convicted in separate trials of killing their 11-year-old daughter by praying instead of seeking medical care.

They each faced up to 25 years in prison, but at their sentencing in October 2009 Judge Howard has recommended a withheld sentence and 10 years of probation with conditions. Howard has ordered jail time as a condition of probation. Each parent also has to serve 30 days in jail a year for the next six years.

In April, 2011 a judge denied the Neumann’s appeals for new trials.

Dale Neumann argued he should get a new trial because jurors in his prayer-death trial could have been biased after learning that his wife was previously convicted in the case.

Leilani said that her trial attorney should have put stronger emphasis on her sincere belief that prayer is a form of treatment.

The Wausau Daily Herald writes

The jail terms were delayed pending appeals.

The Neumanns both argued that their actions before Kara’s death were permitted under the state’s faith-healing law.

Research resources on faith healing