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Hermanson v. State

Supreme Court of Florida
604 So.2d 775 (1992)


Facts

William and Christine Hermanson (defendants) were practicing members of the Christian Science Church. The Hermansons’ religious beliefs prohibited the Hermansons from seeking or accepting conventional medical treatment for health-related issues. The Hermansons’ daughter, Amy, had untreated juvenile diabetes that eventually resulted in Amy’s death. On the day of Amy’s death, the Hermansons called for a Christian Science nurse who, after examining Amy, recommended that an ambulance be called. An ambulance was summoned, but Amy died shortly thereafter. The Hermansons were charged with child abuse resulting in third-degree murder for failing to provide Amy with necessary medical treatment. At trial, the Hermansons argued that they were legitimately practicing their faith in accordance with a state statute that exempted from the child-abuse statute any parental conduct committed in furtherance of the parents’ religious beliefs. The prosecution countered that the Hermansons were not legitimately practicing their religious faith, because the Hermansons had called for a nurse and an ambulance, contrary to the Christian Science Church’s prohibition against conventional medical treatment. Additionally, the trial court rejected the Hermansons’ claim that their right to due process had been violated by the lack of notice of when their conduct became criminal. The Hermansons were convicted, sentenced to four-year suspended sentences, and ordered to serve 15 years on probation. The Hermansons appealed. The appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The Supreme Court of Florida granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Overton, 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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