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Walker v. Superior Court

Supreme Court of California
47 Cal.3d 112, 253 Cal.Rptr. 1, 763 P.2d 852 (1988)


Facts

Laurie Walker was a member of a church that espoused treating illnesses with prayer rather than medical care. Walker’s four-year-old daughter, Shauntay, fell ill with flu-like symptoms and a stiff neck. Walker refused to seek any medical care for her child, and instead attempted to treat Shauntay with prayer. Shauntay’s condition deteriorated as she lost weight, became disoriented, and had difficulty breathing, and seventeen days after falling ill she died. Walker was charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangerment. Walker contended that her actions were legally insufficient to constitute criminal culpability for involuntary manslaughter, and that her actions were constitutionally protected as a free exercise of religion, but her motion to dismiss the charges were denied. Walker filed a petition to the court of appeal for a writ of prohibition and a stay, which were summarily denied. The Supreme Court of California granted Walker’s petition for review, and then transferred the matter back to the court of appeal. Upon further briefing and oral arguments, the court of appeal again denied Walker’s petition. The Supreme Court of California then granted Walker’s second petition for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

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