The Crown appeals Justice Clackson’s brain dead ruling acquitting David and Collet Stephan

Things have been a bit crazy this week in that I have a lot of very early morning meetings, way more so than usual. (The joy of surgery!) This both cuts into my evening blogging time, as I need to go to bed early, and into my early morning time (when I frequently finish posts that I couldn’t finish the night before), as I’m getting up at 4:30 or 5 AM and heading to work by 6 AM. Something did happen, though, that i really have to mention, even if it’s a shorter than usual post (by my standards). Remember the tragic case of Ezekiel Stephan? He was a toddler who died a horrible death of bacterial meningitis in 2012 because his parents David and Collet Stephan chose to treat his serious illness with supplements and “natural” treatments. Ultimately, the Crown prosecuted the parents, who were convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life to Ezekiel in 2016. Unfortunately, due to a technicality, the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Stephans were granted a new trial, which occurred earlier this year. You’ll recall, too, that both parents are antivaccine and that David Stephan is the scion of the founder of Truehope Nutritional Support, a major supplement company in Canada, that makes, among other things, a product called EMPowerplus. Indeed, Truehope supplements were a major part of the Stephans’ attempted treatment of Ezekiel.

Unfortunately, the second trial, which was a trial without a jury overseen by Justice Terry Clackson, ended in a massive miscarriage of justice in which Justice Clackson found the Stephans not guilty based on some truly head-scratchingly cringeworthy reasoning (if you can call it that), along with an attack in the ruling against the Crown’s main expert witness that was undeniably tinged with racism, to the point where a formal complaint has been lodged. Truly, you have to read the actual judgment to see just how ridiculous Justice Clackson’s “reasoning” is. For instance, he concluded based on dubious testimony of the defendants’ expert witness that Ezekiel didn’t have bacterial meningitis at all, but rather had viral meningitis, never mind the puss on the brain and the empyema, all consistent with haemophilus influenza type B. He also concluded that the child died of “lack of oxygen,” which is, of course, what every single one of us will die of one day, as lack of oxygen to the brain is the common final mechanism of death for everyone, whatever the cause. After all, what led to Ezekiel’s lack of oxygen to the brain? His untreated bacterial meningitis! Justice Clackson’s conclusion was akin to concluding that that gunshot wound to the heart didn’t kill the shooting victim, but rather the lack of oxygen to the brain did.

Given how badly reasoned and downright racist Justice Clackson’s decision was, I was happy to learn yesterday that the Crown is going to appeal:

Alberta prosecutors want the province’s top court to find two parents guilty of criminal charges connected to the 2012 death of their toddler despite a judge acquitting the pair last month. David and Collet Stephan were tried this summer on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, who was treated with natural remedies instead of being taken to a doctor. Now, the Crown has filed an appeal, alleging, among other grounds, that the trial judge displayed bias in his decision for comments made about the accent of an African-born doctor — who was a witness for the prosecution — which prompted a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council. David Stephan says he has no comment at this time but will be publishing a Facebook post later today to address the day’s development.

The reasons:

Four grounds are listed in the Crown’s notice of appeal, including that the judge erred “in establishing a medical standard unknown to law.” The document also suggests the judge’s comments in the trial “gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias” and that there was further error in Clackson’s assessment of credibility when he took into account “irrelevant considerations.” Clackson came under fire for comments he made about Crown witness Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, a forensic pathologist who speaks with a thick Nigerian accent.

The four grounds were listed in this story:

  • Establishing a medical standard unknown to law
  • Making comments in the trail that gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias
  • Taking into account irrelevant considerations
  • Placing the onus on the Crown to prove that the Stephans’ son Ezekiel would have been saved had he been taken to a doctor

All of these are definitely more than reasonable objections.

I checked out David Stephan’s Facebook page, and, contrary to his promise, he really hasn’t posted anything yet, other than a promise to post something and a repost of a video of an interview that he and his wife did with antivaxer Del Bigtree:

Not surprisingly, nearly all the comments are overwhelmingly positive and supportive or outraged against the government, the courts, and the Crown.

I’m actually pleasantly surprised that the Crown decided to appeal the decision. I had expected that likely the prosecutors would have decided that, after two trials, seven years, and all the public outcry, pursuing an appeal would be pointless. I am happy that my prediction turned out to be incorrect.