Close Menu
Mark C. Cogan, P.C.
(503) 549-1077

Free & Confidential
Initial Consultation

Call or Email Mark Cogan Directly!

Struggling with
legal problems?

We are here to help.

The Worthington Case

For many years, the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office has been seeking to crack down on the Followers of Christ Church of Oregon City, which has been reported in the news media of following the religious practice of “faith healing” instead of modern medicine. Following the death of Ava Worthington, the District Attorney prosecuted Carl Brent Worthington and his wife Raylene Marie Worthington, for the crime of Manslaughter in the Second Degree. The State alleged that Mr. and Mrs. Worthington failed to provide adequate medical care to their daughter Ava, and that this was the cause of Ava’s death.

Our law office defended Mr. Worthington. During the period leading up to the trial, we conducted exhaustive research into the history of the strong protections of religious freedom which are contained in the Oregon Constitution, which led up to several days of pretrial hearings in which we challenged the basis for the Indictment. We argued that the prosecution of Mr. and Mrs. Worthington was invalid because of the District Attorney’s selective prosecution of the members of the Followers of Christ Church. We argued that the Indictment was flawed because it was premised on a theory of “Criminal Negligence” instead of the more rigorous standard of “Knowledge”. We argued that the 1999 legislation which removed the affirmative defense of faith based healing from Oregon’s Manslaughter statute was invalid. The motions were denied and the case moved to trial.

The prosecution of Mr. and Mrs. Worthington culminated in a month-long trial before the Clackamas County Circuit Court. Throughout the trial, the courtroom was packed by supporters of Mr. and Mrs. Worthington, as well as local and national news media. Jury selection took the first week of trial. We were very concerned about getting a fair jury which was not contaminated by the intensive, often inaccurate and negative media coverage of our case. During the second week of trial, the State presented its case, including 4 medical experts. Our cross examination of the State’s witnesses established that the government’s investigation was seriously flawed, and that the State’s experts actually disagreed about certain crucial findings as to the cause of Ava’s death. The defense presented its evidence during the third week of trial. During the presentation of the defense case, the jury received testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Worthington, as well as their family members and close friends. The defense evidence established that Mr. and Mrs. Worthington are loving and devoted parents who did everything they knew to save the life of their child. The defense evidence demonstrated that the State’s case was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Mr. and Mrs. Worthington’s religious faith and that of their community. The defense evidence demonstrated that the State had erred in urging to the jury that Ava had failed to thrive as a result of parental neglect. With the help of an expert witness, Dr. Ophoven, the defense established that the autopsy which had been conducted by the Medical Examiner was flawed, lacked curiosity and failed to consider other reasonable explanations for Ava’s death. During the fourth week of trial, the prosecution attempted to patch its case by recalling the witnesses which had testified on the State’s direct case.

The jury deliberated for more than a week. In the end, the jury pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Worthington Not Guilty of the crime of Manslaughter in the Second Degree. Mr. Worthington was found guilty of the Misdemeanor of Criminal Mistreatment in the Second Degree. One of the jurors explained to the news cameras after the verdict that the jurors felt that someone had to be penalized for Ava’s death, and that Mr. Worthington, as the head of household, was that person. The judge sentenced Mr. Worthington to 60 days in the county jail, and 5 years of probation. Mr. Worthington is pursuing an appeal which challenges the court’s ruling that allowed him to be convicted based on the diminished mental state of “Criminal Negligence”.

More information about the Worthington case can be found on our Legal Blog which includes some of the significant legal documents, video and TRU-TV footage.

We maintain, based on the strong protections of the right of freedom of worship which are contained in the Oregon Constitution, that a person cannot be penalized for his worship activities unless the government establishes that the accused had Knowledge of the harm which would be caused as a result.

We are very proud of what we accomplished in the Worthington defense. Our victory came in the face of overwhelming community opposition to the “faith healing” practices of the Followers of Christ Church. In one informal survey conducted by a local television station, nearly 80% thought the Worthingtons should be found guilty of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, which carries a prison sentence of 75 months in prison, with no eligibility for early release or time off for good behavior.

More information about the Worthington case can be found on our Legal Blog which includes some of the significant legal documents, video and TRU-TV footage.

Back to Success Stories.

* Every criminal case involves unique facts and circumstances. No previously obtained outcome guarantees the same results in any new case.

Set up your free initial consultation
Share This Page:

Mark C. Cogan, P.C., of Portland, Oregon, represents individuals charged with crimes throughout Oregon, including central Oregon, northern Oregon, Pacific Coast communities and the Willamette River valley, including Clackamas County, Washington County, Multnomah County, Columbia County, Marion County, Tillamook County, Clatsop County, Lincoln County, Lane County, Linn County and Benton County and the cities of Salem, Lake Oswego, Gresham, Oregon City, Tigard, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Milwaukie, West Linn, The Dalles and Clackamas.

© Mark C. Cogan, P.C., 2016 - 2017.