David and Collet Stephan’s retrial resumes in Lethbridge
Missing records and a lack of symptoms showing meningitis was the defence’s focus as they continued bringing witnesses forward in the retrial of David and Collet Stephan following a week-long break.
The couple is charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.
In 2016, a jury found the couple guilty, but the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a second trial last year.
The case is being heard by a judge alone in the retrial, with the Crown arguing the Stephans should have sought medical treatment for the boy sooner. The couple opted instead to treat him with natural remedies before he stopped breathing.
The defence brought forward two witnesses Tuesday, who testified via video, both with connections to Referral, Access, Placement, Information & Destination (RAAPID), an Alberta Health Services call centre connecting patients to medical facilities and physicians to specialists for consultation.
The first witness, Anthony Gallagher, works for RAAPID. He testified he received a call while Ezekiel was being transferred from Cardston, asking him to notify the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge the toddler may potentially have to stop there for treatment.
While Gallagher noted he doesn’t specifically remember making the phone call since it happened seven years ago, he testified that he would have made the call as that is typical procedure.
Collet Stephan’s lawyer, Ingrid Hess, asked Gallagher whether he had any documentation of the call being made to the Lethbridge hospital.
Gallagher responded there wasn’t any and he had “no idea” why that was the case.
The Crown chose not to cross-examine him.
The second witness was Sarah Saleh, an information specialist with the Poison & Drug Information Service (PADIS).
Saleh was consulted through RAAPID by a doctor at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary after Ezekiel arrived at the hospital.
In a phone call recording played for the court, the doctor told Saleh there was nothing in Ezekiel’s brain scans specifically showing meningitis and that it was possible the swelling and fluid on his brain may have been caused by toxins in herbal medication.
Saleh testified she was asked to arrange for a toxicologist to assess the toddler in person to determine the sequence of events leading to his medical state.
David Stephan, acting as his own lawyer, asked Saleh whether PADIS has any infectious disease doctors on staff. She responded that they do not.
However, Saleh wasn’t the only person the doctor spoke to from PADIS, as the doctor had corresponded with one of her colleagues earlier.
During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Britta Kristensen said the second phone call did not show the full picture. But when Kristensen tried to enter the first phone call recording between the doctor and Saleh’s colleague into evidence, she was denied.
The Stephans retrial will continue on Wednesday with the medical examiner who completed Ezekiel’s autopsy, Bamidele Adeagbo, returning to the stand.
Adeagbo’s comments have yet to be entered into evidence as the defence is questioning his qualifications as an expert on pathology.
The trial is expected to continue until the end of the month.
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