Court dates set in case involving infant's death 2, 2004
By Michael W. Hoskins

Surrounded by family and fellow church members, DeWayne and Maleta Schmidt made their first court appearance Monday in a case involving the death of their infant daughter.

They will not make another court appearance for more than six months.

The husband and wife appeared in Johnson Superior Court 2 on Monday afternoon for the first proceedings in their case. The Schmidts each face a charge of criminal recklessness for not seeking medical attention for their daughter last summer because of their religious beliefs.

They instead asked church elders in Morgantown to come to their home outside Franklin and pray for their daughter in the hours after her birth.

Both attend the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn near Morgantown, which advocates faith healing instead of medical intervention.

Their daughter, Rhiana Rose Schmidt, died less than two days after birth because of puerperal sepsis, a general infection typically treated with antibiotics.

A grand jury decided in early July that the couple should face criminal charges, more than 10 months after the Johnson County Sheriff's Office forwarded its investigation to the county prosecutor for review.

Dressed in black suits, both Schmidts stood before Judge Cynthia Emkes on Monday. DeWayne Schmidt put his arm around his wife during the brief, five-minute court proceeding that included defense attorney Carrie Miles asking for a jury trial.

The judge set their next hearing for 9 a.m. Feb. 17. A jury trial is scheduled for May 10.

Attorneys for both sides have a March 1 deadline to decide if they want to combine the two Schmidt cases or argue them separately.

Both Miles and Deputy Prosecutor Daylon Welliver said they have not made a decision whether to argue the cases together.

While not uncommon across the state and country, the underlying legal question raised by this case has not been argued in Johnson County before, Welliver said.

Under Indiana law, depriving a child of medical care is felony neglect, except when care was deprived because of the parents' religious beliefs, Welliver said.

In similar cases nationwide and in Indiana during the 1980s, parents have been charged or convicted of child neglect, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide, he said.

The Schmidts, along with family and fellow members of the church, gathered in a conference room after the hearing to discuss the case.

Both the Schmidts and their supporters declined interviews after the court hearing. Miles said she will be acting as spokeswoman on the case and has told the couple not to speak with the media.

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