Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Howard sentenced the couple to six months in jail and 10 years of probation for reckless homicide in the death of their daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann.As a point of clarification, that six months is to be served in 30-day annual increments apportioned over six years and in any event those periods of incarceration, which are a condition of probation, remain unimposed while the Neumanns appeal their convictions.
In the meantime, Marquette University professor of law Rick Esenberg says "perhaps Wisconsin has it right" as for the application of State law to circumstances resembling those of the Neumann case(s), correctly noting that the legislature has provided a black-letter exemption for the complete faith healing defense:
State law prohibits charges of child neglect based solely on healing by prayer. But it provides no such exemption for more serious charges such as reckless homicide.While this claim is true as far as it goes, the provision in question prevents convictions for acts far more egregious than the relatively passive crime of "child neglect." It also prohibits the successful prosecution of "intentionally caus[ing] great bodily harm to a child."
Esenberg goes on to suggest that the State's interest in prosecuting "does not become compelling until it inflicts the more substantial injuries that support a charge other than child abuse, such as reckless homicide or the infliction of substantial bodily injury."
We can stipulate to the reckless homicide element, loss of life being among the ultimate injuries available to be suffered.*
Rather, the fundamental defect in Prof. Esenberg's premise is that according to Wisconsin law, great bodily harm describes not less but considerably more severe injuries than does substantial bodily harm, so his argument quite plainly doesn't make any sense.
Perhaps another point of clarification is in order.
* I'm not being glib. It's always seemed to me that, for example, the lifelong trauma inflicted on victims of rape can be a far worse fate.
Not to mention the fact that the occasionally well-deserved homicide arguably makes reasonable policy from a Darwinian perspective.