Calgary

Alberta judge says no money for couple charged in son's meningitis death

An Alberta couple facing a retrial in the meningitis death of their son will not get $4 million they wanted the government to give them for past and future legal fees, a judge said Friday.

David and Collet Stephan asked court to award them $4M for legal fees

David and Collet Stephan were found guilty in a court in Lethbridge, Alta., in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel. They treated him with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish before he died of bacterial meningitis. (Facebook)

A judge has told an Alberta couple facing a retrial in the meningitis death of their son that they won't be getting the money they requested for legal fees. 

David and Collet Stephan wanted $4 million to pay for past and future legal bills.

In 2016, the Stephans were found guilty for failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel.

The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and a new trial is scheduled for June.

Justice John Rooke made it clear in a Calgary courtroom on Friday that he won't be awarding any money and that the request belongs in civil court.

He also told David Stephan that the upcoming trial will not be an inquiry into the death of his son, but will decide on the couple's guilt or innocence.

Stephan is alleging collusion and perjury by the Crown and some witnesses. He's asking for a stay of proceedings until he and his wife are awarded money to be able to retain lawyers.

The couple's trial in Lethbridge, Alta., heard evidence that they treated the boy with natural remedies and smoothies made with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. Ezekiel had been ill for several days and at one point became so stiff he couldn't sit in his car seat.

Once the boy stopped breathing, the Stephans eventually called 911 but he died in hospital in Calgary in 2012.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the original judge did not properly instruct jurors and ordered a new trial.

Liquidated assets

The couple's application for cash asked that they be granted $1 million to cover their past legal expenses and that another $3 million be placed in trust for any future defence fees.

The Stephans say they have liquidated their assets, are in debt to their previous lawyer and don't have enough money to obtain the necessary assistance to receive a fair trial.

David Stephan has already told court that the applications are the result of recently released disclosure evidence that suggests 719 pages of defence material was released to the Crown by the RCMP.

The Stephans now live in Grande Prairie, Alta.

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