exposing the dark side of adoption
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Richmond Times-Dispatch

Karen Diehl, convicted in 1987 of beating and killing her emotionally disturbed adopted son, should get a new trial because cameras were allowed in the courtroom of her trial, her attorney argued.

Robert G. Morecock told a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals yesterday that the experimental program that allowed the media to cover the proceedings using cameras was prejudicial to Mrs. Diehl.

Mrs. Diehl was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, abduction, child neglect and assault and battery in the 1987 beating death of her 13-year-old son, Dominick J. "Andrew" Diehl. Mrs. Diehl is serving a 31-year prison sentence. In a separate trial, her husband, Michael Diehl, was found guilty of first-degree murder, abduction, assault and battery and child neglect. He is serving 41 years in prison.

Morecock also asked the court to set aside the woman's abduction conviction, saying the state's law never intended for parents to be charged with criminal abduction.

"Historically, the legislature has always exempted parents because the legislature never wanted to get involved in the discipline of children," Morecock said.

The Diehls said they were forced to discipline Andrew by beating him on the buttocks with a stick. The boy also was shackled naked to the floor of the bus in which the family lived. The Idaho couple were arrested in 1986 while living in a Virginia Beach campground in the converted school bus with their 17 children, 13 of them adopted.

The boy also was forced to eat his own excrement. Andrew died of brain damage.

Morecock also challenged the jury selection in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court trial, and the admission of a photograph and a videotape of Mrs. Diehl's interrogation. He said Mrs. Diehl should have been allowed to present medical and psychiatric evidence that the judge refused to allow.

Diehl also is appealing his conviction on the basis that a parent cannot be convicted of abducting his child.

1989 Jan 11