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Charges stayed against Alberta parents who faced trial in death of toddler, says Crown

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Crown prosecutors have stayed charges against parents who were facing a third trial in the death of their toddler in southern Alberta.

The Stephans were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for their 18-month-old son before he died in 2012.

A lawyer for David and Collet Stephan, Shawn Buckley, says he received a letter from the Crown about the decision.

A copy of the letter directs the Lethbridge court to stay charges against the Stephans of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Buckley told CBC News he does not know why the Crown decided to not proceed with charges against the couple and the defence.

“We’ve applied for leave to appeal and we’re wanting to proceed with that,” he said.

“The reason is, is that the elements that parents face when they’re charged with failing to provide necessities is completely confused.”

The lawyer says despite the parents no longer facing charges, they want other parents in Alberta or other provinces to have better understanding of the decision.

“I have a concern with the Alberta Court of Appeal decision that on the mental element, we’ve actually fallen below what the Supreme Court of Canada has set as a constitutional minimum of proof that’s needed,” he said.

Alberta Justice could not immediately be reached for comment.

Background

The Stephans have previously testified they initially believed Ezekiel had croup, an upper airway infection, and treated him with natural remedies, including a smoothie containing garlic, onion and horseradish.

Despite being advised to take the sick boy to a doctor, it was only when he stopped breathing that they sought medical attention.

The Stephans have a years-long history with various levels of the courts. 

In 2016, a Lethbridge jury convicted David and Collet following their first trial. 

Ezekiel Stephan died in 2012 from meningitis. (Prayers for Ezekiel/Facebook)

But the supreme court ruled there were errors in how the judge instructed the jury and sent the case to a second trial.

In 2019, following a second trial, the couple was acquitted but the Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously ruled the trial judge had shown a “reasonable apprehension of bias” when he described the Crown witness — a Nigerian-born doctor who speaks with an accent — as having given testimony that was “garbled” and “incomprehensible.”

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