2.55pm - by TONY STICKLEY
A jury has this afternoon found the parents of baby Caleb Moorhead guilty of manslaughter.
Deborah Anne Moorhead, aged 34, and Roby Jan Moorhead, 45, both of Dargaville, were found guilty of the manslaughter of 6-month-old Caleb by failing to provide the necessaries of life for three months before the boy died on March 29 last year.
The jury of seven women and four men retired to consider their verdict at 11.20am today in the High Court at Auckland.
The couple were denied bail and remanded in custody for sentence until June 13. Justice Rhys Harrison said it was a serious offence and a jail term of more than two years was justified for both parents.
In summing up at the end of the trial this morning, Justice Harrison posed the question would reasonable and careful parents use a sick child to test their faith in God.
The Moorheads are Seventh Day Adventists and vegans, abstaining from eating fish, meat and dairy products.
Despite the parents receiving numerous warnings, Caleb died from broncho-pneumonia due to vitamin B12 deficiency which could have been easily treated.
Instead of allowing a simple injection of vitamin B12, the couple took the boy from Starship Hospital and went into hiding from the authorities.
They administered a variety of herbal remedies including smearing garlic on the soles of his feet.
In his summing up, Justice Harrison said there was uncontested evidence that the couple had been told that without treatment the boy would die.
In their video interviews with police the couple said they saw the issue as a test of faith.
Mr Moorhead had said that use of conventional medicine was non-negotiable and he would not compromise his beliefs.
He was looking at the long term when he would be re-united in heaven with Caleb.
But Justice Harrison asked the jury whether careful parents would use a sick child as a testing ground for their faith in God.
And would a reasonable parent, observing the continual deterioration in Caleb's health, have failed on a day-to-day basis for three months to obtain medical attention for the boy?
The judge said that the parents owed Caleb a legal duty to provide the necessaries of life, including medical treatment.
Health professionals and others described the boy as lifeless, white as a sheet, strikingly pale, severely anaemic, and suffering severe malnutrition.
Mrs Moorhead's own health diary indicated that she was worried he might die.
"If you accept the evidence you may infer that Caleb's condition would have been obvious to anyone in regular contact with him, especially a parent," the judge told the jury.
Even up to half an hour before death, the jury had been told, Caleb could have been saved.
The judge told the jury to look at the boy's condition and what the parents could have done in order to decide whether they had made omissions to provide the necessaries of life.
The judge directed the jury that if there was an omission it was without lawful excuse. There was no basis, he said, on which the Moorheads could have had a lawful excuse.
Belief in the healing power of alternative remedies, or the healing power of God, or opposition to blood transfusions was not a lawful excuse for omitting to obtain medical treatment for a sick child.
The legislation applied to all parents equally and made no allowance for individual beliefs, whatever their basis.
In a question in cross-examination, Mrs Moorhead had asked whether there was a law against herbal remedies, but the judge told the jury that the question was irrelevant.
If there was an omission, the jury had to decide whether it was a major departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonable parent. It was for the jury to decide the standard, not the Moorheads.
The judge told the jury it was a matter for them but they might decide that a reasonable parent would be particularly careful about Caleb's medical treatment because of the vulnerability of his health.
He warned the jury that, just because the Moorheads had declined to make any opening or closing address or give or call evidence, they were not to speculate about what the couple might have said or try to rectify the perceived imbalance or look for a defence for the Moorheads when they themselves had not done so.
While they were entitled to say nothing, that was a deliberate choice on their part.
The jury might only have the Crown's version of events, but they were not to act as advocates for the accused.
The judge told the jury to put aside feelings of sympathy and prejudice, feelings of anger towards the Moorheads, and any attitudes they had to religion or alternative remedies.
2.55pm - by TONY STICKLEY