Marathon County Judge Vincent Howard ruled this afternoon to deny the post-conviction motions of Dale and Leilani Neumann.
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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 also appealed on grounds she was improperly defended in a separate second-degree homicide trial in 2009.
Judge Howard, who oversaw the separate trials for Dale and Leilani, wrote that “hindsight” was not enough reason to overturn “strategic decisions” made by the couple’s attorneys.
Dale’s defense attorney and prosecutors came to a joint decision to inform the jury of Leilani’s prior conviction, rather than risk members of the jury who were unaware of the conviction finding out at trial, Howard wrote.
“It is admittedly extraordinary to actually inform potential jurors of a prior conviction of a co-defendant, but there is no real denying that these trials were also very extraordinary,” Howard wrote.
Leilani’s argument that her trial attorney should have put stronger emphasis on her sincere belief that prayer is a form of treatment also was rejected by Howard. The judge wrote that attorney Gene Linehan had to make a quick decision during his closing argument, following prosecutors’ attempt to portray Leilani as a “religious extremist.”
“Hindsight can sometimes reveal places where there is room for improvement,” Howard wrote. “Trial counsel certainly could have better explained and emphasized the sincere belief defense…but room for improvement is not the same as deficient performance.”
Dale and Leilani Neumann were each convicted separately. 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.
• The term ‘faith healing’ refers to healing that occurs supernaturally — as the result of prayer rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians or other medical care.
• But while faith healings do take place today just as they did in the early Christian church, the teachings of some churches, movements and individuals on this subject amount to spiritual abuse.
• Legitimate churches and movements do not equal using drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God.