Court upholds homicide convictions of parents in prayer death of Kara Neumann


Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that a mother and father who prayed instead of seeking medical attention while their daughter died in front of them were properly convicted of homicide.

On Easter Sunday 2008, 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died at home from complications of undiagnosed diabetes. At the time, prosecutors argued that her mom and dad, Dale and Leilani Neumann, ignored obvious symptoms of her illness as Kara became too weak to eat, drink, walk or even speak. The couple choose to pray for their daughter rather than take her to a doctor.

The Neumanns don’t belong to an organized church but their belief system informs them that visiting a doctor is akin to the worship of an idol as opposed to God.

On the fateful day of Kara’s passing, Dale and Leilani ignored requests from Kara’s grandmother to have her taken to a doctor. Her grandfather suggested that they give Kara Pedialyte but Leilani argued that doing so would take glory away from God.

Dale had testified that the possibility of his daughter’s death never entered his mind while Leilani told police that God would raise her daughter from the dead following her passing. Doctors testified during the trial that Kara would have had a good chance at survival if she had received medical care before she ceased breathing.

In 2009 the couple was found guilty by separate juries of second-degree reckless homicide. They faced up to 25-years in prison but the judge sentenced each to one month in jail every year for 6 years.

Madeline Kara Neumann

Many states have protections for parents and guardians who choose prayer healing over conventional medicine. The grey area legally is just how far these protections go. In the ruling today, the Court in a 6-1 decision, stated that there are clear limits and that the Neumanns exceeded them.

“The juries could reasonably find that by failing to call for medical assistance when Kara was seriously ill and in a coma-like condition for 12 to 14 hours, the parents were creating an unreasonable and substantial risk of Kara’s death, were subjectively aware of that risk, and caused her death.”

Dale Neumann’s attorney said that, “They’re [Dale and Leilani Neumann] still mourning the loss of this child. From their perspective they felt they were acting in a legal manner.”

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