A couple who treated their dying child with natural remedies is being tried for the second time in Lethbridge, Alta, accused of having committed a criminal offense against her son.
The 19-month-old son of David and Collet Stephan, Ezequiel died of meningitis in 2012.
A jury convicted the Stephans in April 2016 in the Court of Queen's Bench for not providing the necessities of life. The Alberta Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, but the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the original trial judge made a mistake in his instructions to the jury.
Although it is unusual in everyday language, the word "necessary", not "needs", is the term used by the legal system.
"I know you two have been through a very difficult time," said Queen's Court Judge Terry Clackson as the trial began on Monday morning. "I know that, ultimately, the fact that he is on trial is the result of a traumatic event for his family."
While walking to the courtroom, David Stephan told reporters that he and his wife felt nervous, stressed and unprepared.
"Yesterday was a full day of preparation and trying to make arrangements for the next month, month and a half here," said Stephan. "Then, yes, it was a bit stressful."
During the initial trial, the jurors heard that the couple used natural remedies and homemade shakes to treat their child instead of seeking medical attention.
At one point, Ezekiel became too stiff to sit in the car seat, so his parents had him lie down on a mattress in the back of his car as they were taking him from his rural home to a naturist clinic in Lethbridge. to collect herbal supplements.
Only when Ezequiel stopped breathing did the Stephans call for medical assistance. He was taken to a local hospital, but died after being transferred to Calgary.
The original trial turned into a battle of experts, with prosecutors and defense lawyers calling their own medical witnesses.
Stephans wanted $ 4M
The country's highest court found that, given the polarizing evidence of the Crown's medical experts and defense, and an "overabundance of medical evidence," the trial judge's instructions on how to apply the law to deliberations did not provide the juries the tools they needed to properly decide the case.
After the victory of the Supreme Court, the couple dismissed their lawyers, saying they could not pay more legal fees.
Last week, the Stephans, who represent themselves, tried to delay their trial until November, arguing that Collet could have a defense attorney to represent him if they gave him additional time. The judge who heard that request refused to postpone the trial.
The couple has had several opportunities to obtain legal representation.
In December, the couple tried to delay the trial until the provincial government could reimburse $ 1 million for what they claimed they had already spent on lawyers. They also requested that an additional $ 3 million be deposited in trust for defense fees in their next trial. That request was also denied.
Critical of the system
David Stephan has publicly criticized the justice system, in general, and the judges, his jury and the media, in particular.
He also became a regular member of the recent trial for the Calgary couple, Jennifer and Jeromie Clark, who were convicted for failing to provide the necessities of life and the criminal negligence that caused the death of their son from malnutrition and a staph infection. .
The Clarks had refused to take their son to a doctor until it was too late.
At the beginning of the trial, Clackson spent some time explaining the trial process to the defendants, who were supposed to represent themselves. Two lawyers will intervene to help from time to time.
The lawyers are Shawn Buckley, who represented the couple at the first trial, and Jason Demrs, a lawyer who originally offered to act for Collet if the trial could be delayed until November, a request that was rejected last week.
The trial is scheduled to last four weeks.