When good rulings happen to bad people

The Alberta couple who let their going son die a horrible death from meningitis have had their convictions overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada:

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the 2016 conviction on Tuesday after about one hour of arguments from the Crown and counsel for David Stephan and his wife, Collet, found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel.

The Stephans’ defence told Canada’s highest court that contrary evidence from medical experts led the trial judge to issue a misleading charge and did not “give the jury the tools that they needed to decide this case properly.”

She claimed the testimony of an emergency room nurse — who examined Ezekiel at the family home the day before his death — was not given weight and fully explained by the judge when charging the jury.

But the Crown says the same nurse testified at trial Ezekiel could be suffering from “something internal.” The Crown said the comment should have been a “red alert” for the parents.

He was taken to hospital in Cardston but later died after being transported to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

“The jury needed to understand the fact that not just the decision was wrong, but that it was wrong such that it was criminal,” the defence said.

Even if you don’t have young children, it’s almost impossible not to feel white-hot rage at a couple who not only decided to treat that poor boy with garlic and horseradish, but have since tried to cash in on the alternative-health-expo circuit.

But that doesn’t make the Supreme Court’s decision incorrect. If we are going to hold someone criminally responsible for causing the death of their own child, we have to be sure the jury properly understood the complex evidence and the legal principles at stake.

Besides, this doesn’t get the Stephans off the hook completely. Another trial is likely – and, in theory, could result in tougher sentences than what they got the first time around.

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