Judge: Jury will hear about Oregon couple’s faith-healing beliefs in trial over dead child

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, May 30, 2014 10:54 EDT
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Travis and Wenona Rossiter in court
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A judge has rejected the request of an Oregon couple — accused of manslaughter in the death their 12-year-old daughter — to have their faith-healing beliefs excluded from the trial.

Judge Daniel Murphy ruled that the beliefs of Travis and Wenona Rossiter constitute motive evidence, and that absent such evidence, their actions would appear “wanton and grossly reckless” in a manner that would prejudice the jury.

“The court cannot find that evidence of a religious motive is more prejudicial in this case than the absence of such evidence,” Murphy wrote.

The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist Christian organization that believes that modern medicine is sinful, and teaches members that God will heal the worthy through the power of their faith.

Their daughter, Syble Rossiter, died in February 2013 from complications of her untreated diabetes.

At a preliminary hearing, the couple’s attorney, Tim Felling, argued that the Church of the First Born’s beliefs were both irrelevant and prejudicial, and insisted that his clients be “tried for the actions of that day, not for [their] religious beliefs.”

Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania couple whose refusal to seek medical attention for their 7-month-old son led to the boy’s death was sentenced to three-and-a-half to seven years on third-degree murder charges.

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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