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Mother, spiritual leader convicted of neglect in teen's death

7:18 PM, May 8, 2012   |    comments
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After nearly a decade, a mother and her spiritual leader are found guilty in connection with the death of her daughter.

Jacqueline Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman were originally charged with felony aggravated child abuse and neglect.

In 2002, Crank's daughter, Jessica, died of a rare form of bone cancer.  Court documents show her mother chose to rely on prayer rather than medicine to heal her daughter after consulting with "spiritual advisor" Sherman.

The two have been in and out of court for a decade. 

Tuesday, Crank and Sherman's attorneys explained to a Loudon County judge why Crank was within her right to use her faith over medicine.

"Any parent in the State of Tennessee that finds themselves in the position of Ms. Crank has the absolute constitutional right to turn to their faith as it relates to medical treatment for their children," said Crank's attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs.

The state agrees with most of the facts in the decade long case, but where this gets hung up is on religion.

"The elephant in the room, so to speak, always has been constitutional issues. The biggest one is the religious exemption in the State of Tennessee and whether there is a constitutional statute," said Frank Harvey, Assistant District Attorney.

Harvey says the reason this became a misdemeanor case and no longer a felony, was because the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jessica would have survived if she had received prompt medical treatment.

10 years later,  Crank and Sherman were convicted of misdemeanor child neglect, but both sides know this case isn't over. Both their attorney's plan to file an appeal.

They believe it was their constitutional right to use prayer.

"This misdemeanor offense we agree to stipulate the truth because we want to go to the Tennessee  Supreme Court and address the spiritual healing exception of child abuse," said Isaacs.
The attorney's have thirty days to file an appeal.

Previous story

A decade-long court dispute over a child neglect case that spawned a legal battle over faith healing, ended Tuesday with two guilty convictions for the girls' mother and friend.

Jacqueline Crank and her spiritual leader, Ariel Sherman, were sentenced to 11 months, 29 days of unsupervised probation.

Crank's daughter, Jessica, died of a rare form of cancer in 2002.

Can pastor be held liable for girl's cancer death?

Crank and Sherman knew of her illness, but decided to treat it with prayer instead of medical attention.

Tuesday, the two were both found guilty of misdemeanor child neglect. 

Sherman and Crank say they will appeal the conviction.

The bench trial is likely a prelude to a heated fight in the appellate court.   The court must decide is a parent can choose spiritual prayer over medicine.


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