Prosecutors counter prayer parents’ dismissal arguments
The parents of an 11-year-old girl who died when the couple reportedly chose to pray for her recovery should have known to seek medical attention, prosecutors say.
The Marathon County district attorney’s office filed a 10-page brief Monday asking a judge to not dismiss second-degree reckless homicide charges against town of Weston residents Dale and Leilani Neumann.
Madeline Neumann, who was known as Kara, died on Easter from undiagnosed complications of diabetes, according to a medical examiner’s report.
The Neumanns’ attorneys argued that the law is “unconstitutionally vague” as to the allegations in the criminal complaint and asked a judge in September to dismiss the charges. In addition, the Neumanns say the charges infringe upon their right to practice their religion and that they did not have “fair notice” that their actions were inappropriate.
Prosecutors disagree and cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “the right to freely practice religion does not include liberty to expose the community or a child to a communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”
“Simply put, the parents have a right to practice their religion. The child has a right to live,” prosecutors wrote in the brief.
Prosecutors also argued in the brief that the so-called “prayer statute” does not apply in this case. That statute, which falls under a section that describes physical abuse to children, not homicide, states that a person is not guilty of an offense because they treated a child solely through prayer in accordance with their religion.
The Neumanns’ next scheduled court appearance is a motion hearing Nov. 3.
WAUSAU — The parents accused of praying while their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes had “fair notice” of their duty to take her to a doctor if needed, prosecutors argued today in defending the charges.
“The suggestion by the defendant that parents don’t instinctively know their obligations to their children is frightening and without merit,” Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad and Assistant District Attorney LaMont Jacobson wrote.
They asked a judge to deny Dale and Leilani Neumann’s request to dismiss second-degree reckless homicide charges.
The 10-page brief is the latest development in an expected long legal fight that could reach the state Supreme Court.
The couple’s daughter, Madeline, died at their Weston home on Easter after becoming too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk, prosecutors said. They claim the girl likely had symptoms for weeks and perhaps months that should have prompted her parents to seek treatment.
Leilani Neumann, 40, has said the family believes in the Bible, which says healing comes from God, and she never expected her daughter to die as they prayed for her. The parents told investigators the girl had not been to a doctor since she was 3.
Dale Neumann, 46, considered his daughter’s illness “a test of faith,” the criminal complaint said.
Second-degree reckless homicide is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The parents have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.
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