October 15, 2009

Prayer trial parents speak

Judge not misled, say Neumanns — Stevens Point (WI) Journal
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.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that far more people die or have serious side effects by going to doctors then those who pray.

I know I would have taken my child to a doctor but I can understand why some people don't.

illusory tenant said...

It's a fair point. Nobody said it was an easy case.

Anonymous said...

What would have happened if they were atheist that didn't believe in medicine?

Anonymous said...

The point is lost when the mother had difficulty in the courtroom, and was treated by an ambulance, instead of her husband just praying, or when they faced legal trouble, and used an attorney, instead of just praying. It seems they are more practical in the safety of themselves in small maters than they were in the safety of their daughter's very life.

illusory tenant said...

What would have happened if they were atheist that didn't believe in medicine?

Hopefully the same thing, although the judge's colloquy at sentencing would have been even more inappropriate.

And Anon 1:17, I agree, and in fact I think I mentioned each and every one of those things previously.

Anonymous said...

anon 1:17 -

you appear to be saying they are guilty of being inconsistent in making choices although, I do not know if they called the ambulance or if the attorney was court appointed.

Why do want to protect people choice to abortion but not there choice of religion. It appears there are some similarities here.

Anonymous said...

In fact, they didn't request an ambulance when the wife fainted. The judge ordered an ambulence be called and ordered that the wife be checked out.

Clutch said...

Would having part of your penis cut off amount to "great bodily harm"?

In court, the man's lawyer, Douglas Christie, [unsuccessfully] argued the man's desire to fulfil his religious duty negated any criminal intent.


Judge Marion Allan found the man not guilty on charges of aggravated assault..., saying the man did not seriously harm the boy

Given the lack of consent, I wonder* whether the widespread occurrence and cultural-religious basis of circumcision is influencing the judge's interpretation of aggravated assault.** Certainly I doubt that any unwilling adult male, previously circumsized or not, would regard it as less than aggravated assault to have part of his penis sliced off. My suspicion, then: religious nutbar doesn't get off scot-free, but the religious character of both his nuttiness and the harm he inflicted gets him a lighter sentence than were he a secular child-maimer with more randomly crazy motives.

*Taking as read all sensible caveats about criticizing a ruling based on a reporter's gloss.

**CCC 268. (1) Every one commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

illusory tenant said...

Ye gods. So he began his "religious quest" after suffering brain injuries. That's interesting too.

Clutch said...

Oh, and btw: (Vaguely) Christian holy fool getting off lightly for religiously-motivated harm -- stand by for anger about "activist judge" in 5-4-3-never.