Health
David and Collet Stephan to face third trial as appeals court overturns acquittals

David and Collet Stephan to face third trial as appeals court overturns acquittals

David and Collet Stephan will be on trial for a third time after the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the acquittals on Monday, ruling the trial judge had made mistakes, including his comments on how to talk about a Nigerian-born doctor whom the highest court in the province ruled “leading to a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

The couple have been accused of failing to provide essentials for the life of their son, Ezekiel Stephan, who was 19 months old when he died in 2012.

Although unusual in everyday language, the word “necessary” – not “necessitated” – is the term used by the legal system and falls under subsection 215 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The couple have already gone through two trials on the charges; convicted in 2016 and then, after the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial, acquitted last September.

Following the most recent trial in 2019, the Crown appealed, arguing that Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Terry Clackson had made “abusive” and “overstepped” remarks about the medical examiner, a Nigerian-born physician who speaks with an accent.

The judge in the first trial ruled that the official cause of death was bacterial meningitis.

But after the second trial, the judge agreed with the defense medical expert who said the boy died from lack of oxygen in the ambulance.

In acquitting the couple and siding with Dr Anny Sauvageau, the judge made comments that led a group of legal and medical experts to call for an investigation into racism.

Dr Bamidele Adeagbo speaks with an accent and the judge called her testimony “muddled” and “incomprehensible”.

Adeagbo, who performed Ezekiel’s autopsy, testified that the toddler died of meningitis, which he said could have been treated if the parents had taken him to a doctor.

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