Quacks Who Let Their Son Die Have Convictions Overturned On Technicality

In 2012, David and Collet Stephan let their son Ezekiel die by refusing to take him to a hospital after suffered for two weeks with meningitis. When they finally did, he was more or less brain dead.

They were convicted in 2016 and their appeal was dismissed in late 2017. They decided to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada (mostly on various legal technicalities) and now their convictions have been overturned.

They have been granted a new trial. Justice for Ezekiel hangs, yet again, in the balance.

What is the background?

In March 2012, David and Collet Stephan refused to take their son Ezekiel (who had developed meningitis) to the doctor. Instead, they spent two weeks giving him various fake “treatments” based on naturopathy. They deluded themselves into thinking that the fever was merely due to teething instead of realizing that their son was severely ill. Then, everything started to go downhill. Ezekiel had “abnormal breathing where he seemed to be gasping and struggling”. Instead of calling an ambulance, they decided to drive him to the hospital themselves. The toddler was declared brain dead a few days after finally arriving to the hospital.

In April 2016, they were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life. David was sentenced to four months in prison and Collet got three months of house arrest. She got a more lenient sentence because she made some small efforts to find out what was wrong, while David just bought more supplements. The couple was also required to take their remaining children to see health professionals on a regular basis. They appealed the case. While the case was going through the court system, David continued to sell naturopathic quackery and seemed completely remorseless.

In November 2017, their appeals were dismissed. The parents were fuming with anger and conspiracy theories about government tyranny, basically blaming everyone and every thing besides themselves. They made an attempt to salvage the situation by appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada on legal technicalities. At this point, David started to get booted from different kind of wellness expos because they did not want to collaborate with someone who got convicted for what amounts to taking so poor care of his child that the child died.

In May 2018, The Supreme Court of Canada overturned those convictions and ordered a new trial for David and Collet.

Debunking Denialism has covered this case in great detail over the years. For more background reading, consult the following articles:

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Supreme Court decision

With the possible exception of an appeal by the Crown to get a harder sentence, the legal case should have ended after they had their appeal trial dismissed by the Court of Appeals.

It would have been extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court of Canada would have heard their case. This is because the Court needs to give the people appealing permission to seek an appeal at the highest court in the country. The Supreme Court only hear a small number of cases every year. Their chances would have been minuscule.

If it was not for one tiny legal detail.

The appeal trial was dismissed. However, one of the three appeal judges (Brian O’Ferrall) wrote a dissenting opinion that stated that the Stephan deserved a new trial. Although this may superficially appear inconsequential, this automatically granted them the ability to have the Supreme court of Canada hear their case if they so wanted. Of course, the Stephans had nothing to lose from a legal standpoint, so they submitted an appeal.

On May 15, 2018, they submitted their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. They requested that the court either overturn the convictions or grant them a new trial. What arguments did their Supreme Court appeal rely on? It turns out that it had nothing to do with the facts of the matter, but instead various legal technicalities. As predicted in a previous article, they heavily relied on the dissenting opinion of O’Ferrall.

The primary argument was that the trial judge did not provide the jury with sufficient instructions related to the charges, what was needed to be proved, the nature and relevance of the evidence, the connection between evidence and legal questions, what was and was not permissible usages of expert testimony, using too complex language and so on.

They second argument was an attempt to revise history. The lawyers for the defense insists that David and Collet are not at all engaged in naturopathic quackery and that the reason they did not take Ezekiel to a doctor was that the symptoms “appeared to be mild and consistent with a typical cold or flu” and that they “were told by a medical professional that she could find nothing wrong with him.” In legal terminology, they argued that they did not engage in a “marked departure” from the “standard of a reasonable parent”. They also recycle some of the arguments that had been dismissed by the appeal court.

Basically, the Stephans argued that the instructions that the judge presented regarding evidence that the Crown presented were insufficient and too complicated.

The Crown strongly disagreed and made the argument that no errors of the kind the defense lawyers are claiming have been found. This is because even if the charged would have been worded or structured differently does not qualify as a reviewable error. They further argue that strict specification of what necessaries should be provided in what circumstances risks restricting the duties of the jury itself, as this is something that should be determined by the jury itself, not the judge.

Mere minutes after the defendants and the Crown had submitted their material, the Supreme Court of Canada decided to squash the convictions and grant the defendants a new trial. They concluded that the trial judge had conflated two different aspects of the offense and did not properly explain the concept of marked departure to the jury. The decision stated that they “would allow the appeal, quash the convictions and order a new trial”.

It is unclear how the Supreme Court justices could reach a well-informed conclusions just minutes after the appeal was submitted. Perhaps they were already read in on the court case. Chief Justice Richard Wagner justifies the speed at which they acted by stating that “The court believes that under the circumstances it was important to deliver a decision as soon as possible”.

In 2016, the Crown appealed the sentence in the original trial because it was deemed too lenient. It is currently unclear at what date, if any, the Crown appeal will be held.

David Stephan reacts to decision and media coverage

In a brief interview by CBC news at the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada, David had this to say:

We feel very vindicated. We are extremely grateful. We are grateful, because this is a move in the right direction and we now have the opportunity to bring the whole truth forward. We are just so excited to have the ability to do that and being able to uphold parents rights here in Canada.

What truth does David think was not put forward during the police investigation, the first trial and the appeal trial? No new facts have been presented. No new information that can change the fact that he and his wife let their son Ezekiel die. Instead, this is part of their grand delusions about being oppressed victims of government tyranny. Somehow, they believe that it is their parental rights to deny health care to their son and instead give a deadly ill toddler naturopathic quackery products.

This is further made clear by several Facebook post made by David. Here is the first reaction (cache, cache) to the Supreme Court decision:

David Stephan rants on Facebook

Praise be to the Lord God almighty!!

Justice over the errors of our conviction has finally been served, our convictions have been overturned and we now have the opportunity to go back to trial. Even though the idea of enduring 4+ weeks of court is deeply uncomfortable for us, we take comfort in knowing that aside from the medical evidence that is still withheld or destroyed, the whole truth will be established and the tremendous lies surrounding the passing of our son will be exposed. In the light of truth and love, we look forward to exposing this corruption as it will serve to uphold the God given liberties that are paramount in maintaining the sanctity of parents and the family.

May the truth be revealed and may the love of God prevail!

Predictably, he gloats over the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has granted him and his wife a new trial. More astonishingly, he complains about the uncomfortable nature of going through additional weeks of court proceedings. Their son Ezekiel died because of their quackery and inaction, and David dares to complain about being uncomfortable during court proceedings? The sheer arrogance and ignorance is truly bizarre.

He rants about supposed “medical evidence” that is somehow being “withheld or destroyed”. Presumably, he is referring to their faulty suggestion that Ezekiel did not really have meningitis, but merely the cold or the flu. Yet David cannot explain how this produces typical meningitis symptoms or the evidence of meningitis infection presented during the trials. Note that David calls the negligent death of Ezekiel “the passing of our son”, completely refusing to take any responsibility whatsoever. This fits well with previous observations that he is completely remorseless.

He continues to complain about supposed government corruption and that this court case is supposedly about upholding the rights of the parents.

David reacts very badly (cache, cache) to press coverage that contains the slightest criticism of him:

David Stephan rants on Facebook

Even in less than 1 minute of video, the Mainstream Media’s agenda begins to shine through. Notice that even though our conviction was overturned today, they are still referring to us as having been found guilty. Not wrongfully convicted or wrongfully found guilty, but found guilty. And to boot, they are still peddling the lie of Ezekiel dying from bacterial meningitis which was disproven over 2 years ago.
Perhaps the saddest thing about all of this is, is that this is by far the least twisted media piece that I was able to find on the Supreme Courts ruling today. For those who still watch “The News”… I suggest you do yourself a favour and unplug your TV.

David complains that the “Mainstream Media” continues to state that they have been found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life instead of being “wrongfully convicted”. In reality, it is accurate to state that David and Collet have been found guilty, because they were found to be guilty in two trials. The fact that those convictions have been squashed on legal technicalities does not change this historical fact. Furthermore, being granted a new trial is not the same as being found not guilty due to factual content of the case. These are two different things. David wants people to believe that a court has found him not guilty merely by granting a new trial. This is not how the court system works. He wants to make pronouncement of a court proceeding that has not yet been held before it has even begun. Just because the have gotten a new trial does not mean that this new trial will find they not guilty.

More shockingly, David repeat the distortion that Ezekiel did not die of meningitis like he did in the previous Facebook post. This is a fatally flawed conspiracy theory. The medical evidence is there. Ezekiel had meningitis, not just a cold or a flu. You do not get systematic meningitis symptoms from a cold or a flu. This has never been disproved by the Stephans.

Finally, David repeats the terrible argument that negative press coverage means that the content is “fake”. In reality, it is merely press coverage that the Stephans do not like. He also encourages people to stop listening to the media and, presumably, only listen to what he says. In other words, he is discouraging people from getting independent information about the case and only believing what he claims.

What will happen now?

This is a temporary setback for the task of getting real justice for Ezekiel.

The defendants got everything they asked for and more. They asked for their having their convictions overturned or get a new trial, but the Supreme Court of Canada granted them both. They even made their decisions after just a few minutes.

They will have their new trial. This does not mean that they will be found not guilty and set free. Even if the jury instructions are made more clear or otherwise improved to satisfy the defendants, it is unlikely that they will be found not guilty as the evidence is just overwhelming.

Cases like this tend to drag on for multiple years. Debunking Denialism will continue to follow this until the end.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

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