The Wisconsin Supreme Court is deciding whether Dale and Leilani Neumann's 2009 reckless homicide convictions should be overturned in the death of their 11-year-old daughter.
Madeline Kara Neumann died of untreated diabetes in 2008, after the Neumanns decided to pray over her, rather than seeing a doctor.
The justices heard oral arguments at the Capitol in Madison Tuesday and will write an opinion on whether state law protects prayer healers even up until the point of death.
The Neumanns' attorneys are asking the court to reverse their convictions, arguing state law does protect prayer healers and the statutes aren't clear on when a situation becomes so serious they must seek medical help.
"Under the facts of this case there isn't notice to a parent in the Neumanns' position about when prayer treatment became illegal," said Bryon Lichstein, who is representing Leilani Neumann.
Assistant Attorney General Maura Whelan, representing the state, told the justices parents who pray over a sick child can't be protected under prayer immunity after the child is in grave danger of dying, in Madeline's case when she slipped into a coma.
Whelan says the Neumanns placed their daughter at a substantial risk of death and had to have known they crossed the line.
"If the Neumanns had read the statute they could not have reasonably concluded they could with impunity pray over Kara after she had slipped into a coma," she argued.
The Neumanns attorneys argue Wisconsin law provides broad protection for prayer immunity and that the jury that convicted the couple were given instructions that negated the prayer treatment privilege granted by Wisconsin child abuse laws.
After the oral arguments, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson acknowledged that this is a very difficult case, one that is both tragic for Madeline and her family.
It's unclear how long it will take for the justices to write their opinion on the case. The Neumanns were each sentenced to six months in jail, but have yet to serve any jail time.
Designed by Gray Digital Media