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Supreme Court won’t hear appeal by parents who have faced two trials in son’s death


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The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear an appeal in a high-profile Alberta case that saw a couple tried twice in the death of their sick toddler.

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David and Collet Stephan were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for their 18-month-old son, Ezekiel, before he died in 2012.

They testified that they were treating the boy with natural remedies for what they thought was croup.

A jury convicted them in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that verdict and ordered a second trial.

A judge hearing the second trial without a jury found them not guilty in 2019.

In March 2021, the Alberta Court of Appeal granted a request by the Crown to overturn that acquittal and ordered another trial.

Crown prosecutors then stayed charges against the Stephans in June 2021, but the application seeking leave to appeal the decision on a third trial was already submitted to the Supreme Court.

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As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for its decision.

Sarah Langley, chief prosecutor in the appeals and specialized prosecutions office with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, thanked the Supreme Court for its consideration of the matter.

“Although the court has upheld the order for a new trial, a stay of proceedings was entered … on the charges against the Stephans on June 22, 2021,” she said in an email.

“A key duty of a Crown prosecutor is to assess their case on an ongoing basis and ensure all aspects of the evidence are carefully considered at every stage of a prosecution.”

Langley said it has been more than nine years since Ezekiel died and available evidence has deteriorated since the previous two trials.

“The available evidence is no longer sufficient to meet the (Alberta Crown Prosecution Service) standard for prosecution and a reasonable likelihood of conviction no longer exists,” she said.

Shawn Buckley, a lawyer for David and Collet Stephan, said Thursday he would comment on the decision after speaking to his clients.

He had said in an earlier interview that the Stephans wanted to go ahead with the application because “they think it’s very important for the law to be clarified so that other parents don’t face the type of uncertainty that they have been facing.”



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