Dale & Leilani Neumann’s Sentencing Tuesday
It’s been nearly a year and half since 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died and Tuesday her parents will finally learn what, if any punishment they will receive for praying for their dying daughter instead of getting her medical treatment.
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Neumann children’s future hangs on sentencing decision
When Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Howard sentences Dale and Leilani Neumann on Tuesday, his decision won’t affect just the Neumanns. His sentence also will determine the fate of their surviving children.
The Neumanns face up to 25 years in prison on second-degree reckless homicide charges stemming from the March 23, 2008, death of their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann.
Shortly after prosecutors charged the couple with their crimes, the court ordered their three surviving children to be placed in the care of a nearby family member until they could be interviewed and examined by medical experts. The three children also were ordered to undergo periodic medical checkups as part of a court-ordered family safety plan.
Should the Neumanns be sentenced to jail or prison, future placement of the children will be determined by the Marathon County Department of Social Services.
The Neumanns’ children are now ages 18, 16, and 14.
Neumanns’ faith-healing sentencing a no-win situation for judge, say legal experts
As Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Howard prepares to sentence Dale and Leilani Neumann, he likely will try to put himself in the couple’s home on Easter Sunday in 2008.
Howard will consider the facts from that tragic day — the day Madeline Kara Neumann succumbed to the effects of a diabetes condition no one knew she had, and died at Saint Clare’s Hospital as her parents continued to insist prayer alone would save her.
The judge will weigh those facts against Wisconsin law and sentencing guidelines, as well as the Neumanns’ own character, as he determines whether to place the Weston couple on probation, send them to jail or sentence them to the harshest punishment possible — a 25-year prison sentence.
It won’t be easy for Howard, who is in a no-win position, according to legal experts. On one hand, the Neumanns evoke a degree of sympathy; they’ve lost a daughter. On the other, Howard is required by law to consider appropriate punishment and to weigh how his sentence might deter others from committing similar crimes.
In that way, Howard’s decision will have wide-reaching implications. It also will be followed across the country by interest groups that focus on faith-healing issues.
No judge in Wisconsin has ever dealt with the unique circumstances of the Neumann case, and Howard’s sentence will be the benchmark for any future, similar cases, said Shawn Peters, a University of Wisconsin-Madison religion professor and author of “When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law.”
The Neumanns were known locally as a married couple with four children who owned a Weston coffee shop, where they brewed unique drinks and shared their faith. It’s that faith — an undying trust that God and prayer can heal — that brings them before Howard, convicted of second-degree reckless homicide.
In two separate trials, prosecutors convinced jurors that the Neumanns should have recognized that Kara was seriously ill and should have sought traditional medical treatment for the girl, who died from complications of undiagnosed diabetes. The Neumanns’ attorneys argued that the couple never knew how ill Kara was and that they treat all illness with prayer.
Experts say there is no legal precedent in Wisconsin upon which Howard can base his decision, which makes it difficult to predict what the Neumanns’ sentences might be.
• Madaline Neumann news archive
• Faith, medicine collide, and a young girl dies
• National group: Faith-based prosecution is first for Wisconsin
• When parents call God instead of the doctor
• Christian Scientists pushing change in Wisconsin prayer law
• Trials for Parents Who Chose Faith Over Medicine
• Research resources on faith healing
Timeline of events in Neumanns case
January 2007 — Leilani Neumann opens Monkey Mo’s Coffee Shop in Weston.
March 23, 2008 — 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann dies.
March 31, 2008 — The Neumanns reopen Monkey Mo’s. It was closed following Kara’s death.
April 28, 2008 — A criminal complaint against the Neumanns is filed by Marathon County prosecutors.
April 30, 2008 — The Neumanns make an initial court appearance, where they are charged with second-degree reckless homicide.
May 7, 2008 — Dale Neumann is found indigent, and the court appoints him an attorney at county taxpayer expense.
June 10, 2008 — The Neumanns waive their right to a preliminary hearing, and Judge Vincent Howard orders them to stand trial.
Aug. 19, 2008 — The Neumanns plead not guilty.
Oct. 31, 2008 — The Neumanns close Monkey Mo’s.
Dec. 1, 2008 — Judge Howard refuses to dismiss charges.
Dec. 22, 2008 — Separate trial dates are announced, Leilani on May 14 and Dale on July 23.
March 31 — The court appoints an attorney for Leilani at county taxpayer expense.
April 2 — The Neumanns file a motion to find District Attorney Jill Falstad in contempt for failing to return some of the couple’s possessions by a court deadline.
April 7 — Falstad wins a Marathon County judicial election. She will take her position as a judge in August.
April 10 — The contempt motion is withdrawn.
May 14 — Jury selection begins for Leilani Neumann trial.
May 15 — Jury of seven men, seven women, including two alternates, is picked.
May 16 — Leilani Neumann falls ill during opening statements.
May 18 — Prosecutors call their first witness.
May 21 — Prosecutors rest their case. The defense rests without calling a witness.
May 22 — The jury finds Leilani Neumann guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.
July 23 — Jury selection begins for Dale Neumann trial.
July 24 — Jury of eight men, six women, including two alternates, is picked.
July 25 — Opening statements made in Dale Neumann trial.
July 28 — Prosecutors call Leilani Neumann to testify after granting her immunity.
July 29 — Prosecution rests. Defense calls its first witness.
July 30 — Dale Neumann testifies in his own defense.
Aug. 1 — The jury finds Dale Neumann guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.
Aug. 5 — Howard allows Neumanns to leave the state to visit family.
Sept. 15 — U.S. Bank filed foreclosure proceedings in Marathon County Circuit Court against the Neumanns’ village of Weston home after they defaulted on their $250,000 bank loan.
Tuesday — Dale and Leilani scheduled to be sentenced.