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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Washington
484 P.2d 1167 (1971)



Walter Williams (defendant) was a 24-year-old Sheshont Indian with a sixth-grade education. His wife, Bernice (defendant) was a 20-year-old with an eleventh-grade education. Bernice had two young children from a prior relationship, including a 17-month-old son. Walter assumed parental responsibility for the children along with Bernice to provide clothing, care, and medical attention. For a two-week period, the infant had an infected tooth which went untreated other than aspirin administered by Walter and Bernice. Eventually, the infection spread to the infant’s mouth and cheeks and eventually became gangrenous. The condition, accompanied by the infant’s inability to eat, brought on malnutrition and lowered the child’s resistance. Shortly thereafter, the child died from pneumonia. Walter and Bernice were charged with manslaughter for negligently failing to provide the child with necessary medical attention. At trial, Walter and Bernice testified that they did not fully realize how ill the infant was and that they did not seek medical attention out of fear that the state’s child services department would take the infant away from them. After a bench trial, the trial judge found Walter and Bernice guilty of manslaughter. Walter and Bernice appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Horowitz, C.J.)

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