About a dozen family and friends of David and Collet Stephan filled the courtroom Monday and heard Alberta’s former Chief Medical Examiner dispute the findings of the autopsy performed on the Stephans’ 18-month-old son.
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.
Dr. Anny Sauvageau was Alberta’s Chief Medical Examiner from 2011 to 2014. She took the stand in a voir dire, with the defence going through her qualifications as an expert forensic pathologist.
Sauvageau is responsible for hiring Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ezekiel.
Adeagbo spent several days on the stand throughout the trial, testifying it was clear the child had died from bacterial meningitis.
However, Sauvageau told court she disagrees, noting that while the autopsy did find meningitis, it wasn’t the cause of his death.
In a report Sauvageau wrote on Ezekiel’s death, she concluded he died from hypoxic brain injury after a medical misadventure — referring to when he was without oxygen for about nine minutes while being transported to the hospital in an ambulance.
The defence pointed out Sauvageau’s extensive research in asphyxia, a condition that occurs when the body is deprived of oxygen, and she testified that some people consider her a leading expert on the topic.
WATCH (Aired July 10): Medical examiner tells David and Collet Stephan’s retrial he considered everything in autopsy
Adeagbo told court earlier in the trial that while hypoxic injury could have been a possibility, there was no evidence showing it.
His testimony was given entirely in a voir dire as defence questioned his qualifications as an expert on forensic pathology. The judge has since ruled to accept his testimony into evidence.
“Dr. Adeagbo being qualified as an expert… could be a good thing or a bad thing, it depends on… the weight that’s given to the evidence as well as what’s taken into consideration,” said David Stephan.
Sauvageau is expected to be on the stand for most of this week.