August 1, 2014

Supreme Court hears arguments in prayer death case

(Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The state Supreme Court will now decide whether a Weston couples’ reckless homicide convictions should stand. Justices on Tuesday heard arguments in the case of Dale and Leilani Neumann, who prayed over their 11-year-old daughter Kara as she died from untreated diabetes, instead of seeking medical attention for the girl after she slipped into a coma.

Arguing before the court, attorney Byron Lichstein said a state law protecting faith healing should have kept the Neumanns from facing charges. Lichstein said “the government essentially told them prayer treatment is legal” and then turned around and prosecuted them for exercising that right.

However, Assistant Attorney General Maura Whelan said the faith healing exception is meant to protect parents from being charged with child abuse. She argued that once Kara slipped into a coma, her parents had a duty to seek medical help because it went past bodily harm. Whelan said any belief the Neumanns had that the faith healing law protected them was unreasonable, and they were responsible for Kara’s death.

Kara Neumann died in 2008 and her parents were convicted in separate trials in 2009. They each were given ten years of probation and must serve a month in jail each year until 2015. The Supreme Court is being asked to overturn their convictions, based on arguments that the faith healing law should have protected them from homicide charges and that the jury was not given proper instructions about the law at trial. The high court will issue a decision in the case at a later date.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:04)