[Did I say child abuse?Â Murder, really.]Â According to the Associated Press, “An Oregon couple who relied on prayer instead of medical care were acquitted of manslaughter Thursday in the death of their 15-month-old daughter.”Â A jury convicted them only of “criminal mistreatment,” which means they’ll do a year at most.
Read the following article and tell me that if this couple had justified their actions by saying “Well, it seemed like the logical thing to do” that they would have been acquitted.Â But the fact that they admitted they were relying on faith bought them a pass, or a near pass anyway.
Ore. faith-healing pair acquitted of manslaughter
By WILLIAM MCCALL, Associated Press Writer
OREGON CITY, Ore. – An Oregon couple who relied on prayer instead of medical care were acquitted of manslaughter Thursday in the death of their 15-month-old daughter.
The jury convicted the father, Carl Brent Worthington, of criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of a year in jail. The mother, Raylene Worthington, was acquitted in the 2008 death of their daughter Ava.
Both had faced manslaughter charges, which could have carried a sentence of up to six years in prison. The mother also was acquitted of criminal mistreatment.
The prosecution said Ava Worthington failed to flourish through most of her life because of a cyst on her neck that impeded her breathing and eating, contributing to her fatal pneumonia. She died on a Sunday evening after family and church members prayed over her and anointed her with olive oil.
The state medical examiner said she could easily have been saved with antibiotics.
But the defense attacked the credibility of the state’s expert witnesses and said the child died of a fast-moving form of sepsis, an infection. The Worthingtons testified that the cyst was a trait in the father’s family and that they thought their child only had a cold.
Jurors saw the Worthingtons as loving, caring parents, said 25-year-old juror Ashlee Santos.
“They’re people. They’re not monsters,” she said at a press conference at the Clackamas County courthouse. “They had no intention of harming their child. They’re good parents.”
She said the father was convicted of criminal mistreatment because the mother wasn’t monitoring the girl as closely as he was, so he was more responsible for her condition.
During the trial, the defense made a point of noting that in families of the Worthingtons’ church, the Followers of Christ, husbands make all important decisions.
District Attorney John Foote said Thursday prosecutors were “saddened and disappointed,” convinced the facts were clear in this case, and determined to be aggressive in enforcing “laws that require parents to protect their children regardless of their religious faith.”
The Followers of Christ shuns conventional medicine in favor of faith healing. The church has been in Oregon City since early in the 20th century. Its members, by their own description and that of others, keep to themselves.
The trial was the first under a 10-year-old Oregon law that bars legal defenses based on religious practices in most abuse cases. The law was a response to previous deaths among young members of the Followers of Christ.
The jurors reported on Monday that they were deadlocked on all the charges, but Judge Steven Maurer sent them back to deliberate. Under Oregon law, the verdicts required only 10 votes among the 12-member jury. The jury included eight men and four women.
The jury voted 11-1 to acquit Raylene Worthington of manslaughter and 10-2 on the rest of the charges against her and her husband. Santos said she voted with the majority on every count.
Throughout the trial, which lasted nearly four weeks, members of the church were in the gallery. Courtroom crowds ranged from about 40 people to as many as 80. Carl Brent Worthington and other church members refused to speak to reporters after the verdict was announced.
The husband, who goes by Brent, is a commercial painter. Raylene Worthington is a homemaker and is pregnant.
After Ava’s death, their surviving daughter, then 4, got a medical checkup at the insistence of Oregon child welfare workers, one of whom testified at a hearing last year the girl was in good health.
The father’s sentencing is scheduled July 31.