July 19th, 2018

New trial ordered for Stephans

By Lethbridge Herald on May 15, 2018.

Collet and David Stephan leave court after the jury returned a guilty verdict in their trial last year for failing to provide the necessaries of life. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

A couple who had been convicted in the meningitis death of their son say they have been vindicated by the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to order a new trial.
David Stephan and his wife, Collet, were found guilty in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel.
Their trial in Lethbridge heard evidence that they treated the boy with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. The Stephans eventually called 911 but the toddler died in hospital in 2012.
“We’re grateful because this is a move in the right direction and we now have the opportunity to bring the whole truth forward,” Stephan said outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. “We’re just so excited to have the ability to do that and to be able to uphold parental rights here in Canada.”
The Supreme Court heard arguments from the couple’s lawyer and the Crown before making the unusual move of ruling immediately from the bench.
Justice Michael Moldaver, speaking for the high court, said the trial judge did not properly instruct jurors on what would be a marked departure from reasonable behaviour “in a way that the jury could understand.”
“Accordingly we would allow the appeal, quash the convictions and order a new trial.”
Karen Molle, lawyer for the Stephans, had argued the trial judge didn’t instruct the jury properly to determine whether the Stephans acted differently than other reasonable parents.
“This jury charge gave this jury little choice but to convict,” Molle said.
Julie Morgan, representing the Crown, said the trial judge’s language was generalized but it was enough for the jury to understand the case.
“The jury would have understood what their job was,” she told the court. “They found that the appellants did not meet the community standard, when they failed to take their child to a doctor when he had meningitis, and that endangered his life.”
The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the conviction last November, but because the ruling wasn’t unanimous, the couple had an automatic right to take their case to the Supreme Court.
A spokeswoman for Alberta Justice said the file will return to Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench to set a new trial date.
“The Crown has an obligation to continually assess the evidence/file against the prosecution standards of a ‘reasonable likelihood of conviction’ and if it is ‘in the public interest to proceed’ with a case,” said spokeswoman Katherine Thompson.
Although David Stephan said the prospect of a new trial is “deeply uncomfortable for us,” he rejoiced in the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Praise be to the Lord God Almighty!!” Stephan wrote on Facebook.
“Justice over the errors of our conviction has finally been served, our convictions have been overturned and we now have the opportunity to go back to trial. We take comfort in knowing that aside from the medical evidence that is still withheld or destroyed, the whole truth will be established and the tremendous lies surrounding the passing of our son will be exposed.”
Witnesses at the trial said the toddler’s body was so stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat, so he had to lie on a mattress when his mother drove him from their rural Alberta home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge, where she bought an echinacea mixture, which is believed to be a natural immune booster.
The trial also heard that Ezekiel’s parents believed he had croup, an upper airway infection, and that he seemed to improve at times.
The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He was taken to a local hospital and died after being transported to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital.
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. With files from Terry Pedwell in Ottawa

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4 Responses to “New trial ordered for Stephans”

  1. Tony Pargeter says:

    “Praise be to the Lord God Almighty!!”
    Speaking of “tremendous lies,” why wasn’t the role of pernicious religious belief even mentioned on CBC or on the local television news?
    Stephan is pleased to be “upholding parental rights in Canada.” What a hero. This seems to be the new code phrase for believers. Pity the poor kids.

    • Brinman says:

      What do you mean by “pernicious religious belief?”

      Do you mean the fact that they are “believers” as you snidely refer to them?

      From your comment I can only surmise that you are of the opinion that being a believer is something to be ashamed of and must be hidden in a “code phrase.”

      The fact that you would resort to an ad hominem attack and attempt to turn this into a religious test rather than arguing the merits of this case speaks volumes in regard to the weakness of your position.

      Just so that your position is clearly understood, let me define it here and you let everyone know where you disagree:

      You — together with all of the other members of the lynch mob that would prefer to see the Stephans in jail and farm out their children to foster families — believe that it is in the best interest of the Stephan family (granted – the government doesn’t always do what is in the best interest of its’ constituents, but it should) to send the parents to jail because they didn’t go to the hospital sooner.

      Is that right?

  2. Brinman says:

    Why does the article state that, “Witnesses at the trial said the toddler’s body was so stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat, so he had to lie on a mattress” ?
    Who are these “witnesses” that can’t be found in the official transcript of the trial proceedings? Are there any sources to back up this false claim?

    Here is the transcript of the trial proceedings where Collet testifies that he was not stiff and she doesn’t mention anything about lying on a mattress.


    So if this is Collet’s testimony, who are the “witnesses” that testified to the contrary? Was there a group surrounding them as they placed their child into the vehicle? Who else was even around that could testify about this event?

  3. HaroldP says:

    Tony Pargeter, you take issue with the fact that the Stephan family are “Believers”. I would suggest that if they were not “Believers” they would have not been able to sustain the fact of loosing a child combined with the legal challenges they have faced and still pressed on to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada. Tony, do you also take issue with the Supreme Court of Canada that has ruled so quickly, for a re-trial acknowledging that there was error in process in the previous trial? It is commendable that the Stephans have publically proclaimed their thanks to the Lord God Almighty.

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