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OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Defense attorneys for a father who was convicted of second-degree criminal mistreatment in the faith-healing death of his 15-month-old daughter are trying to block his sentencing, arguing that the court set too low a standard for conviction.
In a motion filed Wednesday (July 29) in Clackamas County Circuit Court, attorney Mark C. Cogan said prosecutors should have been required to prove that Carl Worthington, who relied on faith healing to treat his daughter, knew that withholding medical care would cause her harm.
Instead, the court instructed jurors to weigh whether Worthington was criminally negligent, a lesser standard, by not bringing Ava to a doctor when she developed a softball-sized cyst on her neck and then contracted pneumonia and a blood infection.
Worthington, 29, was convicted last week of second-degree criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor, but was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter. His wife and co-defendant, Raylene, was acquitted of all charges.
It was the first such conviction of a member of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ Church, which practices faith healing and has a history of children dying of treatable medical conditions.
Deputy District Attorney Gregory D. Horner, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment.
Circuit Judge Steven L. Maurer is expected to address the defense motion at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Friday (July 31). If Maurer rejects the motion, he could move directly to sentencing. The maximum penalty for second-degree criminal mistreatment is a year in jail and a $6,250 fine.
Cogan, noting that Worthington has no criminal record, said he would then ask Maurer to place Worthington on probation, which could come with a variety of conditions.
Meanwhile, officials in the state Department of Human Services said they are discussing whether to intervene on behalf of the Worthington’s surviving child, a 5-year-old girl. Human Services authorities stepped in to assess the girl’s health after Ava died in March 2008.
“Following the standards we are legally required to use, we’re considering whether her father’s conviction would pose a new safety threat for her,” said Jerry Buzzard, who manages the Clackamas County office of the state Children, Adults and Families Division. “Frankly, we’re not sure. … There are a lot of things to consider in this case, and there will be more discussions.”
By Rick Bella
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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