A judge on Friday refused requests from an Alberta couple charged in the meningitis death of their son to have their legal fees covered and a retrial delayed.
David and Collet Stephan wanted $4 million to pay for past and future legal bills.
“You don’t have any resources. That’s what you’re telling me and you’re not getting any here,” Justice John Rooke told David Stephan, who was acting on behalf of himself and his wife in a Calgary courtroom.
“The application is dismissed and … I am not making any findings on the merits,” Rooke said.
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 of Canada and a new trial is scheduled for June.
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.
Rooke said the Stephans would be better off taking their request for legal fees to a civil court.
“You’re in the wrong procedure and the wrong place. That’s civil court. Another judge … another day,” Rooke said.
“It’s clear to me if you want to pursue those matters you can sue the attorney general, you can sue the hospital, you can sue the ambulance and you can sue everybody except the judge.”
Stephan has alleged collusion between the Crown and police in the first trial and has also accused some witnesses of perjuring themselves.
He said outside court he and his wife wanted a delay as well as the cash for lawyers to guarantee a fair trial.
“We were hoping for a stay of proceedings until we got legal representation. It’s kind of bittersweet. It would sure be nice to have this case turfed like it should be,” Stephan said.
“As heart-wrenching as it’s going to be for myself and my wife, it would sure be nice to have the truth come out.”
Rooke noted that the Stephans had not filed an application for legal aid.
“You don’t have to justify why you’re not applying for it. Some people may say you’re a fool for not doing it, but that’s your business. You have the right to represent yourself,” the justice said.
Stephan said one or even two lawyers appointed by legal aid wouldn’t be sufficient. He said civil action isn’t possible now either.
“If we had the money we would have already been before the civil courts to have all of these facts tried,” he said.
At this point, he said, they might have to continue to represent themselves.
The original trial in Lethbridge, Alta., heard evidence that the couple treated the boy with natural remedies and smoothies made of garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. He 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 called 911 but he died in hospital in Calgary in 2012.
The Stephans now live in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press