Testimony sought in mom’s abuse case
KNOXnews.com, Aug. 19, 2002
A 15-year-old girl at the center of a firestorm over faith healing may not live long enough to testify this month at a hearing on charges of child abuse and neglect against her mother.
Attorney Gregory P. Isaacs filed a motion in Loudon County General Sessions Court seeking a judge’s approval to take the terminally ill teenager’s deposition as soon as possible.
The girl’s mother, Jacqueline P. Crank, faces a preliminary hearing Aug. 28 on allegations she failed to seek emergency medical treatment for her daughter in May despite the urging of a certified nurse practitioner at Physician’s Care Clinic in Lenoir City.
Authorities have alleged Crank took her daughter to the clinic May 6 because of a large tumor on the girl’s shoulder. After spending “approximately three hours with Crank to find orthopedic treatment,” clinic nurse practitioner Tracy Gartman arranged for Crank to take the girl to the emergency room at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, a warrant stated.
Crank, instead, returned to the home she shares with at least eight other members of her church, including the group’s “spiritual father,” Ariel Ben Sherman, authorities said.
Isaacs has maintained that Crank, a devout Christian, turned to prayer to heal the girl. Crank was arrested in late June. Earlier this month, authorities also charged Sherman with aggravated child abuse and neglect, alleging he was advised in February to seek medical care for the girl.
After Crank was arrested, the state Department of Children’s Services took custody of the teenager and checked her into East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. The girl later was allowed to return to her mother’s home, but DCS has maintained legal custody to ensure the teenager receives medical treatment.
However, her chances of survival are slim, everyone involved in the case agrees.
According to Isaacs’ motion, Children’s Hospital physicians estimated she “had approximately 12 weeks to live” when she was first diagnosed with cancer.
Since then, her medical condition “has worsened and the child’s prognosis is much worse,” Isaacs wrote.
Isaacs states in his motion that the girl’s testimony is critical to her mother’s defense. Although he did not detail what he believes the girl’s testimony would show, Isaacs included in his motion copies of poems the girl wrote about her own faith. In those poems, the girl lists her last name as “Christ,” saying she is a “daughter of God.”
Isaacs has argued state law specifically sets out a “spiritual treatment exemption” under the child abuse and neglect statutes. He also has filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the case, citing a section of the law that states the child abuse and neglect statutes do not apply “for the sole reason the child is being provided treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone.”
Noting that some states with a similar exemption have added language that clearly sets out when a parent may forgo medical treatment in lieu of prayer, Isaacs argues Tennessee’s law sets no such boundaries.
“The statute is silent as to what point a parent’s reliance upon spiritual treatment could become criminal conduct, if ever,” the motion states.
Either the charge against Crank should be dropped because she legally exercised her religious and parental freedom or it should be dismissed because the law is “vague and overly broad,” Isaacs contends in the motion.