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Commonwealth v. Twitchell

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
617 N.E.2d 609 (1993)


Facts

David and Ginger Twitchell (defendants) were Christian Science church members who believed in healing by spiritual treatment rather than conventional medical care. When their young son Robyn became ill with peritonitis, the Twitchells sought advice from Talbot, a church official. Talbot read them a church publication quoting from a Massachusetts statute, G.L. c.273 § 1, which provided that a child was not to be deemed neglected or to lack proper medical care solely because the child was being treated by spiritual means pursuant to the practices of a recognized church. Following Robyn’s death, the Commonwealth (plaintiff) charged the Twitchells with involuntary manslaughter based on wanton and reckless conduct. The trial judge refused to admit the language of c.273 § 1 into evidence and the jury convicted the Twitchells. The Twitchells appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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