Closing arguments get underway Friday morning in the Weston prayer death trial of Lelani Neumann, a mother accused of reckless homicide.
Prosecutors will summarize three-and-a-half days of testimony from medical experts who said 11-year-old Kara Neumann would have survived diabetes with treatment and from family members who said mother Leilani chose prayer instead of medicine.
The final witness was Dr. Joseph Monaco, a pediatrician who treated Madeline after she was rushed to a Wausau area hospital.
Monaco says medical staff spent about 50 minutes trying to revive the girl. She wasn’t breathing and her heart had stopped.
Monaco says Madeline was emaciated and suffering from out of control diabetes. But he also says the disease could have been easily treated if she’d been brought in earlier.
Just hours after her 11-year-old daughter died, Leilani Neumann told police she thought the child had suffered a spiritual attack and that the Lord would restore her to life.
Jurors in Neumann’s reckless homicide trial heard the Weston woman say those words Wednesday as they viewed a videotaped police interview of Neumann.
“And you know, it may be crazy to you, but that’s why I’m not crying and wailing right now,” Neumann told a detective. “Because I know she’s, I know she’s, she’s gonna come, she’s gonna come back.”
Prosecutors played Neumann’s 90-minute interview with Everest Metro Police, which took place little more than six hours after Kara died March 23, 2008, from complications of diabetes.
Neumann exhibited a range of emotions in the video. She cried. She was distraught. She sang “Kumbaya.” She said prayers. She also made statements that her daughter was not acting normally prior to her death.
In the interview, Neumann told Everest Metro Detective Sgt. Dennis Halkoski that Kara became tired, was excessively thirsty and urinated frequently two weeks before she died. Earlier this week, doctors testified that those were warning signs of diabetes and that the Neumann family should have recognized Kara’s failing health.
Leilani also told police in the interview that when she came home from work the day before Kara died, Kara felt cold, her legs were blue and Neumann noticed how skinny Kara was. When Halkoski asked Neumann if she ever thought about taking Kara to a doctor, Neumann said she never thought Kara was that sick.
“It’s not that I’m against doctors or medicine, but I just felt like, you know, my faith was being tested,” Neumann said in the interview.
Jurors will determine today whether a Weston woman is guilty of homicide because she chose to pray for her child rather than seek treatment for the girl’s diabetes.
Leilani Neumann’s attorney on Thursday rested his case without calling a single witness to testify. Closing arguments were scheduled to begin this morning.
Defense attorney Gene Linehan told jurors throughout the trial that Neumann would testify in her own defense. Linehan said he changed his mind after prosecutors on Wednesday played a 90-minute videotaped interview Neumann had with Everest Metro Police hours after Kara died.
Neumann’s answers to the officer’s questions in the video were heartfelt, honest and truthful, Linehan said after he rested his case.
As the courtroom emptied Thursday, the Neumanns shared hugs and smiles with friends and family. Later, they were heard praying in a nearby conference room.
“We all know nobody did anything wrong,” said Leilani Neumann’s stepfather, Brian Gordon, of San Diego.
Neumann case poses complex legal, ethical questions
Constitutional law, religion, philosophy, medicine, ethics and common sense are just a handful of the issues involved in the ongoing murder trial of a 41-year-old Weston woman.
Dall’Osto, who has been following the Leilani Neumann case, said one of the questions raised is whether a parent’s First Amendment right supersedes the need to act in a child’s best interests.
“Diabetes is not curable, but it is manageable and people do not have to die from it,” said Dall’Osto, of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown. “So the question is, can parents make that decision for a child, or should someone step in and have acted in the child best interests? The law is not clear.”
Madison defense attorney Dean A. Strang suggested that another issue is whether the parents were aware of the risk involved with relying on divine intervention, rather than medical treatment.
“I would be aware of the risk of not taking someone to the doctor,” said Strang of Hurley, Burish & Stanton S.C. “But if my belief system is so greatly tilted toward divine power, I think I might appreciate the risk as I’m not praying hard enough, have not purged myself of sin, or whatever.”
Strang also questioned the motive of the prosecution in the case and said that while tragic and horrible, the trial likely will do little to dissuade other parent’s behavior in the future.
• See also: Faith Healing
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