Followers of Christ Church Members’ Manslaughter Conviction Upheld


A few years ago, I was almost selected to serve on the jury which convicted this couple of manslaughter. Every potential juror had to fill out a long questionnaire. One question asked about religious beliefs. Because I stated that I was an atheist, I expected not to be selected. Thus, I was surprised when I made it to the voir-dire phase of jury selection where the prospective jurors are asked questions in open court. However, the attorneys for the defendants struck me after that phase. The jurors chosen for the trail rendered a unanimous conviction for manslaughter. Now after six years of appeals, they will finally serve their sentences. What follows below is the article that appeared in The Freethinker on October 15.

The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld the manslaughter convictions and prison sentences of Dale and Shannon Hickman, above, whose newborn baby died after they chose faith healing over medical treatment.

The Hickmans, whose premature son David died nine hours after being born, were sentenced in 2011 to six years in prison. They were members of the Followers of Christ church in Oregon City, which has a history of its members’ children dying because they were denied medical care .

More than a decade ago, Oregon City officials claimed to have discovered an unusually large number of child deaths from families who belonged to the church. This led to a 1999 law that limited the use of religious defences in criminal negligence cases.

From 2009 to 2011, the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted four couples from Followers of Christ for failing to seek medical attention for their children.

The Hickmans testified at trial that their son, who weighed 3 lbs 7 oz, appeared to be healthy despite his size. They said David showed symptoms of distress just 15 minutes before he died, an argument the state said “made no biological sense”.

This report says that Dale Hickman ran into the room where one of his aunts was holding David,  anointed the infant’s head with olive oil and began to pray. At this time the baby was taking short breaths, was pale in colour and hardly responsive. Despite his poor condition, the family still did nothing to help.

A medical examiner said David’s official cause of death was staphylococcus pneumonia. A doctor testified during the trial and if the couple had sought help, the baby would have had a 99 percent chance of surviving.

The Hickmans, both of whom turned 30 this year, will now remain behind bars until January 29, 2018.

via The Freethinker – The voice of atheism since 1881



About the Author Karen Garst