Praying Couple Says Homicide Charges are Unconstitutional

Parents accused of praying instead of seeking medical care for their daughter who died of diabetes pleaded not guilty to second-degree reckless homicide. They further asked the judge to dismiss the charges as unconstitutional, reports the Associated Press.

11-year-old Madeline died on Easter at the family’s rural Wisconsin home. An autopsy, requested by her parents, found that she died from undiagnosed diabetes. Prosecutors say the parents failed in their legal duty to protect their child.

Dale and Leilani Neumann’s criminal defense attorneys filed a motion claiming the law is “unconstitutionally vague” and the charges infringe on the parents’ constitutional right to freely exercise their religion and their “liberty interest” to rear their children.

The mother said she believes in the Bible and that healing comes from God and prayer. She said she never thought her daughter would die. The father said he considered Madeline’s illness “a test of faith” that could be conquered by prayer. Both parents told investigators that Madeline hadn’t been to a doctor since she was 3 years old.

The maximum sentence for second-degree reckless homicide is 25 years. The Neumanns are currently free on bail, but must send their surviving three teenage children to biweekly checkups to ensure they receive any needed medical care.

A Wisconsin law states parents can’t be accused of abuse or neglect if they chose prayer in good faith as a treatment for a child’s disease. The District Attorney said her analysis of the law is that it doesn’t apply to homicide cases. Due to the nature of the case, the defense attorneys expect it may reach the state Supreme Court.

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