Potential jurors quizzed in faith-healing trial of Leilani Neumann

Panel expected to be set today; husband a potential witness

Wausau Daily Herald/May 15, 2009

Attorneys in the trial of a woman accused of praying for her daughter's recovery as the girl was dying are close to picking a jury for her weeklong trial.

Leilani Neumann, 41, of the town of Weston faces a charge of second-degree reckless homicide in connection with the death of her 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann.

Kara, as she was known, died on March 23, 2008. Prosecutors say Leilani and her husband, Dale, should have known they had a duty to take the girl to a doctor. Leilani's attorney, Gene Linehan, said the family practices faith-healing.

A list of nearly 50 potential witnesses includes Dale Neumann, 47, who also faces a charge of second-degree reckless homicide. His trial is scheduled to begin July 23.

Linehan and Marathon County prosecutors Jill Falstad and LaMont Jacobson spent Thursday selecting 16 potential jurors through group and individual questioning. After a pool of 24 jurors is selected, the two sides each will strike potential jurors until 14 people are left - 12 jurors and two alternates.

Jurors will be sequestered until the trial concludes, tentatively by May 22. The jury should be finalized today, and opening statements are scheduled for Saturday.

The majority of the day was spent in individual questioning in Judge Vincent Howard's chambers. During the process, called voir dire, attorneys asked potential jurors a range of questions, including their religious beliefs and experience with doctors. Falstad and Jacobson focused questions on how potential jurors handled children's emergencies and illnesses; Linehan questioned their ability to keep an open mind.

Several potential jurors said they did not believe in faith-healing but were open to it working for other people.

Every person also was asked about how much they knew about the case from media reports. Some admitted to developing conclusions when the story first broke, but were willing to listen to the facts in the case.

Nearly 90 potential jurors appeared at the courthouse Thursday morning, and about 40 were dismissed mid-afternoon when it appeared the court had a sufficient pool of candidates to pick a jury.

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