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Race a major issue in Crown’s appeal against Stephans

June 11, 2020

Before Alberta's top court, prosecutor Rajbir Dhillon said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terry Clackson's remarks about a Nigerian-born doctor were "abusive" and "crossed the line.” BCN’s Naveen Day attended Day 1 of the appeal via video link and has the details.

Race and medicine are at the centre of the Crown’s appeal to overturn the acquittals of David and Collet Stephan who were found not guilty in failing to provide the necessaries of life for the 19-month old son, Ezekiel.

The crown presented two arguments.  First, it argues the judge made “insulting” and “offensive remarks” about the Nigerian-born medical examiner, Dr. Adeagbo’s manner of speech.  

In his decision at the second trial, Queen’s bench Justice Terry Clackson wrote:

"His ability to articulate his thoughts in an understandable fashion was severely compromised by: his garbled enunciation; his failure to use appropriate endings for plurals and past tenses; his failure to use the appropriate definite and indefinite articles; his repeated emphasis of the wrong syllables; dropping his Hs; mispronouncing his vowels; and the speed of his responses,”

Defence attorney, Jason Demers argues that the Charter right to a fair trial is being violated and the the judge and legal counsel would not be getting a fair trial if a key witness could not be understood.  He notes that Clackson, who continually interrupted Dr. Adeagbo was doing so for clarification and to ensure that the trial was fair.

Secondly, the Crown argued that judge erred in making the Crown prove that timely treatment would have saved Ezekiel’s life.

Defence attorney Shawn Buckley responded by saying, had the Stephan’s believed their child was in danger, they would have sought help sooner.

He says that bacterial meningitis can “often sneak up on you”, and by the time symptoms start to show, it can already be too late.

Prior to the Stephans’ second trial, Bridge City News aired a 5-part special, Fighting for Ezekiel.  You can view it here.