Jacqueline Crank was convicted of misdemeanor child neglect in 2012 and given a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, suspended to unsupervised probation. The conviction came 10 years after the death of her then-15-year-old daughter Jessica Crank from Ewing's Sarcoma. According to court records, the cancer caused a grapefruit-sized tumor on the girl's shoulder that appeared to give her severe pain.
Jacqueline Crank initially was charged with a felony. Those charges were later downgraded after doctors said that Jessica most likely would have died even if she had gone to a hospital right away. Jessica was eventually taken into the custody of the Department of Children's Services and admitted to East Tennessee Children's Hospital.
According to court records, pediatric oncologist Dr. Victoria Castaneda testified that while Jessica likely could not have been cured by early treatment, "it would have helped in dealing with her condition and symptoms and positively impacted the quality of her life."
Jacqueline Crank has argued in court that a Tennessee law protecting some faith healers but not others is unconstitutional.
The law says that a child shall not be considered abused, neglected or endangered solely because the child's illness is treated with prayer rather than surgical or medical care. But the faith healing must be performed "in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination" and "by a duly accredited practitioner of the recognized church or religious denomination."
In turning to prayer for Jessica's healing, Crank relied on the advice of Ariel Ben Sherman, who called himself the girl's "spiritual father."
According to the record, Crank testified in court that even after Jessica died, she and others prayed and laid hands on the girl in an attempt to resurrect her.
Sherman was convicted with Crank of misdemeanor neglect in 2012. Both appealed the conviction, but Sherman died before the appeal was complete.
The state appeals court ruled against Crank in 2013, saying that even if the state's faith healing law were unconstitutional, striking it down would not undo Crank's conviction. The Supreme Court agreed to hear Crank's appeal in an order filed last week.
Crank's attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, said his client has continued to fight her conviction despite her very minor sentence because she does not want others who rely on faith healing for their children's illnesses to be prosecuted as she was.
"She was treated very harshly by the criminal justice system," he said. "She was charged with a felony and given a high bond. They took her daughter away, and her access was limited as her daughter was battling cancer and dying."
Isaacs said Crank did not neglect her daughter.
"She wanted to heal her in the way she thought was best," he said.