The Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to uphold the so-called 'prayer death' convictions of reckless homicide for Dale and Leilani Neumann, with Justice David Prosser dissenting. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said state statutes "provide sufficient notice that the parents' conduct could have criminal consequences if their daughter died."
Dale and Leilani Neumann were convicted in separate trials in 2009. Dale Neumann was unrepentant on the witness stand.
"If you read the Gospels, and you read the Epistles, any mention that Jesus had, he never went to a doctor ever," said Neumann.
Death came slowly for 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann. For long hours, she slipped in and out of a diabetic coma, unable to speak abd urinating on herself, while her parents prayed over her limp body. In sentencing the Neumanns, Marathon County Judge Vincent Howard said freedom of religion is not absolute.
Said Vincent Howard, "The guarantee is a limited one. It protects religious belief, but not religious conduct and practices."
In his dissent, Justice Prosser said Wisconsin law governing faith healing is "imprecise and quite confusing." Byron Lichstein, attorney for Leilani Neumann, agrees.
Lichstein: "One statute tells the Neumanns that they are protected if they practice prayer treatment, and then they were prosecuted for acting under that very protection. According to the Court, the scope of that prayer treatment privilege is pretty narrow."
Lichstein and Dale Neumann's attorney, Steven Miller, say the couple has not decided if they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.