Wis. Supreme Court to Release Ruling on Faith-Healing Couple Whose Daughter Died

Later this week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling for parents Leilani and Dale Neumann, who are contesting a 2009 charge of second degree reckless homicide after their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes.

Due to their religious beliefs, Leilani and Dale Neumann of Weston attempted to treat their daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann, with prayer instead of seeking medical treatment, and the child ultimately died.

The Neumanns decided to take their case to the state's Supreme Court after being convicted of second degree reckless homicide of their daughter for failing to seek medical care.

Two separate juries found that both Dale and Leilani had practiced second degree reckless homicide because their daughter exhibited obvious symptoms which should have prompted the parents to seek medical help, including one point when the child stopped walking and talking.

The business and Bible study partners of the parents, who were also present to pray over Madeline, reportedly did not contact 911 until the girl stopped breathing.

Initial reports of the court case indicate that the couple had ties to the local "Unleavened Bread Ministries," and reportedly contacted one of the congregation's elders to pray over their daughter shortly before she died.

Both parents could have received 25-year prison sentences, but due to the fact that they have two remaining children living at home, they were ordered to each spend 30 days in jail for the next six years and take their surviving children to the doctor should any medical emergency occur.

The lawyers for the couple are urging the Supreme Court to reverse the murder convictions, arguing that Wisconsin's state laws regarding faith-healing are not clear on when a parent is legally obligated to seek medical help for their child.

Wisconsin's state statute protects parents from child abuse and neglect charges should they choose religious treatment over medical help, but Byron Lichstein, appellate attorney for Leilani Neumann, told The Associated Press in December 2012 that the state statute does not distinguish what type of situation would strip the parents of their legal protection and require them to seek medical help.

"People are supposed to be able to know when their conduct becomes illegal," Lichstein told AP, as previously reported by The Christian Post.

"How do you know when you've moved beyond that?" Lichstein, who teaches at the Criminal Appeals Project and the Wisconsin Innocence Project of the University of Wisconsin, asked.

According to the Wassau Daily Herald, both Lichstein and Dale's lawyer, Steven Miller, agreed that the protection of the faith-healing statute ends when it's clear the child is going to die. But they argued that Madeline reportedly showed signs of recovery in the time leading up to her death.

According to AP, the state Justice Department argued that a parent's faith-healing practices are only protected until the child's health is in serious jeopardy; once the possibility of death is evident, parents must seek medical help.

During oral arguments in December 2012, an assistant attorney general argued that the Neumanns placed their daughter at a substantial risk of death and that her acute diabetic reaction was highly treatable.

After the oral arguments ended, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson told attorneys that the justices were left with a very difficult decision to make.

In a more recent case, a Philadelphia Municipal Court judge refused to throw out the third degree murder charges against Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who are accused of allowing their second child to die of pneumonia due to their religious beliefs and failure to get medical help.

Currently, 31 states include statutes which protect parents from child abuse charges should they choose to practice faith-healing due to their religious beliefs.

If the Neumanns are unsatisfied with the court's ruling they may appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.