Couple found guilty of manslaughter in faith-healing trial - KPTV - FOX 12

Couple found guilty of manslaughter in faith-healing trial

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A jury has convicted an Oregon City couple of second-degree manslaughter in the death of their premature baby.

Shannon and Dale Hickman did not seek medical help when their son, David, was born two months early in September 2009. The couple belong to the Followers of Christ Church, whose congregation prefers prayer over medicine.

Thursday afternoon's verdict came after less than a day of deliberations and was unanimous for each parent.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 31. The Hickmans were allowed to go free until then.

During the trial, defense lawyers presented a video of David that showed him as being small, but apparently healthy. But the child's health deteriorated and he began to struggle to breathe.

The baby died nine hours after birth, surrounded by members of the Hickmans' church.

An autopsy showed David died from pneumonia that was complicated by underdeveloped lungs and a bacterial infection.

The baby's parents each took the stand during the trial to defend themselves.

David Hickman told the court he believed there was nothing that could have been done to prevent his son's death. His wife testified that she did not object to the decision to treat David only by anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

Prosecutors argued the Hickmans had a responsibility once the child was born, especially when his breathing and color changed. A pediatrician echoed that, saying David died because he was born pre-term and because of the lack of medical care after his birth.

But the Hickmans' attorney described it as a "family tragedy" that was not deserving of criminal prosecution.

Collin Fleming, the jury foreman, said the decision was an emotional one for some jurors, but it was clear when the law went into effect.

"That was very significant, I think, in all the jurors' opinions because that seemed to us, from the point of the birth, that‘s when the law started to apply," Fleming says.

Outside of court, none of the Hickmans' family or friends would comment on the verdict.

Previous faith-healing cases

Members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City began to make headlines in 2008 for their choice to use prayer and faith over modern medicine.

Carl and Raylene Worthington appeared in court Thursday for the sentencing.

In March 2008, their 15-month-old daughter died of pneumonia and a blood infection, two problems that medical examiners say are easily treated by surgery and antibiotics.

In July 2009, a jury declared the Worthingtons not guilty on charges of manslaughter, but Carl Worthington was convicted of criminal mistreatment and sentenced to two months in jail.

Carl Worthington is the son of Jeff and Marci Beagley, whom a jury found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in February 2010 after their son died of a treatable bladder condition.

The Beagleys were sentenced to 16 months behind bars.

This past June, a judge sentenced Timothy and Rebecca Wyland to 90 days in jail for first-degree criminal mistreatment for not treating their daughter's eye condition.

The Wyland's child was nearly blinded by the abnormal growth of blood vessels near her left eye. She has since improved under court-ordered medical care and remains in state custody.

Gov. John Kitzhaber in June signed a bill that outlawed the use of "spiritual treatment" as a legal defense for murder.

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