Parents found guilty of causing son's death by taking him to hospital only when he was on verge of death
Jennifer and Jeromie Clark have been released on their own recognizance and will have to return to court in February for their sentencing
Two parents who did not provide their 14-month-old son, John, with the necessary nourishment and only took him to the hospital when he was on the verge of death have been found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life.
According to Calgary Sun, the four-woman, eight-man jury at the Calgary Courts deliberated for several hours on Thursday before returning with the guilty verdict against Jennifer and Jeromie Clark. The jurors ruled that the couple were negligent in not ensuring that the child was properly nourished in the days and weeks before they brought him for treatment at the Alberta Children's Hospital, where he would die less than 24 hours later.
The details of the toddler's November 28, 2013, death were laid out for the jury. It was revealed that John died after he suffered a seizure and two cardiac arrests the day after he was brought to the hospital. The jurors were also shown pictures of John after he died, and it painted a picture of a child who had not been cared for properly.
The 14-month-old was shown to have had blackened toes and a red rash in a swirling pattern that covered almost three-quarters of his body. While it was initially believed that the rash was eczema, witnesses testified it was likelier to have been from a nutritional deficiency.
Emergency and intensive care doctors had testified that the boy was near death and had an abnormally low heart rate and temperature, a sign that possibly indicated he was in the final stages of an "overwhelming infection".
The forensic pathologist's report confirmed the same and stated that John had died from a staph infection, also corroborating the fact that he had been malnourished at the time of his death.
The parents had taken John to the Foothills Medical Centre around 3:20 pm because he was lethargic and cold. A doctor there immediately transferred him to the children's hospital, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. He would pass away after suffering two cardiac arrests, with Crown prosecutors Shane Parker and Jennifer Crews stating that the Clarks should have taken the toddler to the hospital for treatment for his skin disorder/bacterial infection long before November 28.
In a report on CTV News, Parker was quoted to have said: "He was extremely hypothermic." Elaborating on John's condition when he was brought in, he said: "His heart rate had gone down to an extremely dangerous level, four of his toes had turned gangrene or turned black. He had a rash covering 70 percent of his body. He was lethargic and, in the words of the early medical personnel, they thought he was lifeless."
He added: "Their prognosis was that if he hadn't received medical care at that time he was going to die."
The defense had tried to shift the blame on the hospital, with the lawyers suggesting that the doctors had caused the death by raising the 14-month-old's sodium and fluid levels too aggressively.
They said that the boy was neither malnourished nor septic, and implored the jurors to not rely on a mob mentality when considering the couple's guilt, or innocence. But it was an argument that was rejected by the members of the jury, who sided with the testimony of the emergency personnel.
The Calgary Sun reported that John went from being in the 50th percentile of newborns to as low as the bottom third percentile when he died. Speaking about the case, Parker said, "John would have been in Grade 1 and would have just celebrated his sixth birthday in September. This is a young boy who the community lost."
Parker credits the jury for hearing such a tough case. "A lot of complicated medical evidence, a complicated area of the law, so it was a tough charge to work towards."
He also defended the doctors at the hospital and called them "heroes". Referring to the defense's argument, he said, "They're the heroes in this file and to portray them as the villains really was quite unfair for their efforts to try and save that 14-month-old baby."
The couple has been released on their own recognizance until sentencing. They are scheduled to return to court on December 14, when a sentencing date will then be set sometime in February 2019.