June 20th, 2024

Couple once convicted of failing to provide necessities of life to infant son gets new trial

By None on July 10, 2018.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Heralddshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A former southern Alberta couple convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life after their young son died of meningitis six years ago are set to stand trial again next summer.

A lawyer representing the accused appeared in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench Monday, where she told the judge the four-week trial for David and Collet Stephan is scheduled to begin June 3, 2019. The Stephans have also elected to be tried by a judge alone, instead of a judge and jury, which tried the case in 2016.

David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail and his wife was ordered to spend three months under house arrest, with exceptions for trips to church and medical appointments.

The couple, which now lives in B.C., won an appeal earlier this year when the Supreme Court of Canada overturned their 2016 conviction. The Alberta Court of Appeal initially upheld the conviction against the Stephans last November, but because the ruling wasn’t unanimous, the couple had an automatic right to take their case to the Supreme Court.

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.”

During their first trial, court heard the parents didn’t believe their 19-month-old son Ezekiel was seriously ill, and over several days in 2012 treated him with various homemade remedies. They never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing and had to be rushed to a local hospital. The toddler died shortly after he was taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

Although the trial is set to begin in June, a voir dire and pre-trial motions will be heard sooner, from Feb. 25 to March 8 of next year. A voir dire is a trial within a trial used primarily to determine the admissibility of certain evidence.

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