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Defense Rests In Parents’ Murder Trial

April 17, 1989

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ The defense rested Monday without presenting any witnesses in the murder trial of a Christian Science couple accused of letting their 7-year-old diabetic daughter die without medical attention.

Former banker William Hermanson, 42, and his wife, Christine, 38, are charged with third-degree murder and felony child abuse.

Sarasota Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan said he expected the six jurors to begin deliberations Tuesday after closing arguments and his instructions.

Amy Hermanson was aided by spiritual healers but not doctors before her death in September 1986. The Hermansons’ attorneys claimed the couple were acting legally under a 1975 Florida law allowing parents to withhold medical treatment from their sick children if they are ″legitimately practicing″ their religious beliefs.

Christian Science tenets rely on prayer and spiritual practitioners rather than on medicine to heal illness. There are no church sanctions, however, for followers who seek medical aid.

The couple have a right to practice their religion ″but not the right to allow a child to die,″ Assistant Sarasota State Attorney Deno Economou said during the week-long trial.

On Friday, defense attorneys successfully blocked the testimony of a family friend who said out of the jury’s presence that Amy’s parents had in the past obtained medical care for themselves but didn’t get the insulin injections that expert witnesses said could have saved their child’s life.

Attorney Charles Arnold said the surprise testimony by Mary Christman violated trial rules requiring lawyers to notify the other side of damaging testimony expected to be introduced.

The prosecutors acknowledged their inaction but gave no explanation, and the judge ruled the testimony inadmissible.

04-17-89 1544EDT

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