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Dec 4, 2012 12:30 PM by Lauren Molenburg

Lawyers to ask Wisconsin court to rule in prayer death

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) - A couple who prayed while their daughter slowly died of diabetes will try Tuesday to persuade the state Supreme Court to overturn their homicide convictions, arguing state law protects them from prosecution.

The case presents charged questions for the court about where religious freedom ends. The justices for the first time will have to weigh whether the state's faith-healing exemptions protect parents from criminal liability if their choices lead to a child's death.

The Wisconsin case revolves around Dale and Leilani Neumann, of Weston, a Wausau suburb in the central section of the state.

The couple's 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann, whom the family called Kara, fell ill in March 2008. Believing the girl was under spiritual attack, the family prayed over her. She died Easter Sunday of an undiagnosed but treatable form of diabetes.

Marathon County prosecutors charged the couple with second-degree reckless homicide. Separate juries convicted both of them in 2009. They were sentenced to serve one month in jail each year for six years, with one parent serving a month every March and the other serving a month in September. The judge also ordered each to serve 10 years on probation.

At least 18 states have laws that provide parents with some form of legal protection if they choose to try to heal their children through prayer rather than medical science. States have been wrestling for years with how far those exemptions reach.

Minnesota's Supreme Court, for example, faced a case similar to Wisconsin's 20 years ago. That state's statutes protected parents who treated children through prayer from child neglect charges. Parents of a child who died of diabetes were charged with manslaughter after they prayed but didn't seek medical help. They argued it was unclear when prayer became illegal. The Supreme Court sided with the parents in 1991.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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