David and Collette Stephan leave the courthouse in Lethbridge, Alberta, April 26, 2016, surrounded by family and supporters after being found guilty in failing to provide the necessaries of life in the death of their 19-month-old Ezekiel 2012. The CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter

Crown appealing verdict in toddler’s meningitis case, citing comments by judge

Crown appealing verdict in toddler’s meningitis case, citing comments by judge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The Crown is appealing the not guilty verdict in the case of an Alberta couple charged with not seeking medical attention sooner for their sick son.

Last month, Justice Terry Clackson acquitted David and Collet Stephan of failing to provide the necessaries of life in the death of 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in 2012.

The couple testified they thought their son had croup and used herbal remedies to treat him. They called for an ambulance when he stopped breathing, but he later died in hospital.

Clackson sided with the defence expert who said the toddler died of a lack of oxygen, not bacterial meningitis as reported by the original medical examiner, Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo.

“The relief sought is that the acquittal be set aside and a conviction entered or a new trial be ordered,” reads the appeal, filed Friday in a Calgary court.

In his decision, the judge noted the Nigerian-born medical examiner spoke with an accent and was hard 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, without explanation, 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.

The judge erred by insisting prosecutors had to prove taking Ezekiel to the doctor would have saved the boy’s life and mistakenly established a medical standard unknown to law, the Crown added.

Clackson’s comments prompted a letter of complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council, signed by 42 doctors and lawyers from across the country, asking it to investigate.

“In reading Justice Clackson’s reasons, he makes a number of ad hominem attacks on Dr. Adeagbo which lack a judicial mien, and in which some may perceive racism,” the letter reads.

“In particular, Justice Clackson harshly mocked Dr. Adeagbo’s manner of speech and accented English, and thereby inappropriately implicated his national or ethnic origin as a person of African roots.”

The council has confirmed it had received the complaint, as well as two others.

Alberta’s justice minister was asked about the appeal at a news conference Tuesday, but offered no opinion.

“We leave the decisions regarding certain appeals to the lawyers that are handling those files,” Doug Schweitzer said.

David Stephan said Tuesday he needed to get more detail before he could comment on the appeal.

“We were made aware by the media that the Crown is appealing the ‘not guilty’ verdict,” Stephan wrote on Facebook.

“We still have not received anything official from the Crown and as of yet, are not fully aware of all the points of appeal.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2019.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

The Canadian Press

Meningitis trial

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

Just Posted

UPDATE: Seven-year-old dies and her mother and two brothers are injured in trailer fire

Fire started shortly after 1 a.m. and took four hours to put out

Racist videos targeting Maskwacis are under investigation

Video images of what appears to be teenagers issuing racist and sexist… Continue reading

Red Deer County residents decry lack of public consultation over ‘enormous’ river water withdrawals

Noise, light, diesel emission complaints were made to the Alberta Energy Regulator

Woman no longer co-accused in 2019 Red Deer murder

Preliminary hearing of co-accused in murder began on Friday and resumes next month

Red Deer Mayor says city council’s advocacy isn’t over with shelter and hospital funding gains

Additional Crown prosecutors are still at the top of Tara Veer’s list

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Canadian-Indians worry for their families as riots break out in India

Naila Saeed could do nothing but worry from afar when rioters descended… Continue reading

Public health agency weighs stronger COVID-19 protection for front-line workers

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says it will consult… Continue reading

Ukraine pledges help for airline compensation for Iran plane crash victims

OTTAWA — Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada says his government will help Foreign… Continue reading

Saskatchewan premier won’t commit to fall election; cites national unrest

ESTEVAN, Sask. — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says rail blockades and the… Continue reading

Suspect charged with first-degree murder in death of 13-year-old Quebec girl

ST-JEROME, Que. — Friends and family of a teenage girl whose body… Continue reading

Tories call on government to compensate dairy farmers ‘left behind’ in new NAFTA

OTTAWA — The Conservative opposition says the government must compensate dairy farmers… Continue reading

Red Deer Construction Association honours local builders

5th annual Commercial Construction Awards took place on Thursday evening

Most Read