A Common Pleas Court jury is to resume deliberations Friday in the involuntary-manslaughter trial of a Rhawnhurst couple whose 2-year-old son died of pneumonia after they eschewed medical care and tried to heal him with prayer.
The 12 jurors met for about 90 minutes Thursday after lawyers for Herbert Schaible, 42, and his wife, Catherine, 41, presented their only witness, the noted Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht.
The couple's son, Kent, died Jan. 24, 2009, after a two-week illness that turned out to be bacterial pneumonia.
The Schaibles did not testify. In statements to police, they said Kent had seemed to have a severe cold or the flu. They said they had prayed over the child, put him to bed, and discovered later that day he was dead.
The Schaibles are members of First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, which teaches healing through prayer and considers medical care a lack of faith in God.
The Schaibles' lawyers retained Wecht to rebut the testimony of Philadelphia Assistant Medical Examiner Edwin Lieberman, who ruled the death a homicide and told the jury that Kent likely would have survived had he been taken to a doctor.
Wecht's analysis of the autopsy differed from Lieberman's. He testified that the boy had two serious forms of bacterial pneumonia: the Hemophilus influenza Type B found by Lieberman and also Staphylococcus aureus, which he said played a larger role in Kent's death.
In one respect, however, Wecht did not testify as defense attorney Bobby Hoof had predicted in his opening statement. Hoof told the jury that Wecht would say that the bacteria in Kent's lungs were drug-resistant and that Kent would have died even with medical care.
Wecht told the jury Thursday that he could not predict how Kent might have responded to antibiotics, although he believed it "more likely than not" that the pneumonia would have been fatal even with medical intervention.
The infection was fast-moving, developing 12 to 24 hours before Kent died, Wecht testified.
Wecht has built a national reputation as a consultant. He helped investigate the deaths of Elvis Presley, JonBenet Ramsey, and Clinton administration aide Vincent Foster.
After Wecht's testimony, the jurors heard closing arguments from Hoof, who represents Herbert Schaible; Mythri Jayaraman, who represents Catherine Schaible; and Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore. They then got instructions in the law from Judge Carolyn Engel Temin.