David and Collet Stephan were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in 2012, in a June 11, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Judges to hear Alberta Crown appeal of couple’s acquittal in toddler death

Trial judge’s comments under scrutiny

CALGARY — An Alberta Crown appeal of a couple’s acquittal in the death of their son is to be heard in Calgary today.

David and Collet Stephan were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in 2012. The couple testified they thought their son had croup and that they used herbal remedies to treat him.

Last September, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge found them not guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life. Justice Terry Clackson accepted the testimony of a defence expert, who said the toddler died of a lack of oxygen, not bacterial meningitis as reported by the original medical examiner.

The Crown is arguing that Clackson committed a number of errors and made negative comments about the medical examiner that gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.

In his decision, Clackson noted that Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, who was born in Nigeria, spoke with an accent and was difficult to understand.

“His ability to articulate his thoughts in an understandable fashion was severely compromised by: his garbled enunciation; his failure to use appropriate endings for plurals and past tenses; his failure to use the appropriate definite and indefinite articles; his repeated emphasis of the wrong syllables; dropping his Hs; mispronouncing his vowels; and the speed of his responses,” Clackson wrote.

The judge also called out Adeagbo for “body language and physical antics … not the behaviours usually associated with a rational, impartial professional imparting opinion evidence.”

The Crown said in its appeal notice that Clackson took into account “irrelevant considerations.”

“The trial judge’s comments in the trial gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias,” the Crown wrote.

A jury convicted the Stephans in 2016, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the verdict and ordered a second trial.

After Clackson’s verdict, dozens of medical and legal experts filed a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council against him, alleging he made comments about Adeagbo that could be perceived as racist.

The judicial council acknowledged receiving the complaint but hasn’t gone ahead with an investigation as the case is still before the courts.

David Stephan said he had hoped to attend the appeal hearing in person, but the shutdown of the courts due to COVID-19 requires him to watch the proceedings via a video link.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.

Courtracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Break and enter at the Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum

Wetaskiwin RCMP is seeking help from the public to identify two suspects.

230 new COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend

City of Red Deer has nine active cases

Father and his 9-year-old son rescued off of Miquelon Lake this weekend

Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP and EPS Air 1 rescue father and son on Miquelon Lake.

Canadian professional chuckwagon racer reflects on cancelled season

This year would have marked Troy Dorchester’s 28th year of racing.

Conservatives call for Trudeau to testify at committee on WE Charity deal

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating whether Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Crowds in Sylvan Lake “commonplace” during summer months

The Town of Sylvan Lake looking for solutions from Province for large crowds not social distancing

Look out, Mars: Here we come with a fleet of spacecraft

Three countries sending unmanned spacecraft

Canmore RCMP respond to multiple hiking injury calls this weekend

EMS and RCMP responded to three separate and unrelated hiking accidents in Kananaskis Country.

How Conservative leadership hopefuls would address the WE scandal if they win

The ethics commissioner has been called in to see if Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law

With debt, deficit numbers out, experts say Liberals need plan for growth

Borrowing will push the federal debt past $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year

Most Read