Jeromie and Jennifer Clark, sentenced for death of son, lose appeal

Two Calgary parents whose son died because they refused to take him to a doctor when he was ill have lost the appeal of their convictions.

Each parent was sentenced to 32 months in prison but sought to have the sentences overturned

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark leave a sentencing hearing at the Calgary Courts Centre after the couple were found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of their 14-month-old son in 2013. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Two Calgary parents whose son died because they refused to take him to a doctor when he was ill will not have their convictions overturned.

A decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal released Tuesday morning says the appeals have been dismissed.

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark were found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life for the 2013 death of their 14-month-old son, John.

The boy was malnourished and died from a staph infection less than 24 hours after he was admitted to hospital.

Several medical witnesses for the Crown testified that if the boy had seen doctors earlier, he almost certainly would have survived.

The parents were each handed a 32 month sentence, but defence lawyers Alias Saunders and Andrea Serink argued the judge made an error in his instructions to the jury.

"There was no evidence of what a reasonably prudent parent ought to have done," Saunders said last month.

However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and said members of the public are able to assess parental duties and that expert evidence does not set the standard.

"Based on all the evidence, the jury was entitled to conclude that John's health deteriorated over the month of November, that his severe medical condition did not have an immediate onset in the late afternoon of November 28, and that a reasonably prudent parent would have sought medical attention before that time," reads the decision. 

The defence also stated there was unfair treatment of its medical expert, Anny Sauvageau, who suggested doctors caused the boy's death.

Saunders said the prosecutor, Shane Parker, "treated her like she's an idiot" by cutting her off, cutting her short and asking unfair questions.

One example cited was when Parker told jurors that Sauvageau had lost her job as Alberta's chief medical examiner and was no longer qualified to practise in the province.

According to defence, the failure of the trial judge to intervene resulted in an unfair trial. 

The court of appeal says it was reasonable for the Crown to highlight any informational deficiencies they saw since the witness was not a treating physician nor had she reviewed all the evidence.

"In this case, we are satisfied that the Crown's actions, viewed in context, were not inappropriate and that there was no failure on the part of the trial judge either in his jury instruction or his conduct of the trial generally," said the court.

With files from Meghan Grant


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