The judge who handed a “not guilty” verdict to David and Collet Stephan, a Canadian couple who let their son die of meningitis by treating him with maple syrup and garlic, could be investigated for making the decision with racist motivations.
Justice Terry Clackson said in his ruling he was swayed by a witness put forth by the Stephans, but disregarded the prosecution’s expert testimony in part because of his heavy Nigerian accent. Now, just weeks after David Stephan celebrated his “not guilty” verdict, 42 doctors, lawyers, and professors are saying in a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council that the judge “harshly” mocked the doctor who conducted an autopsy and concluded that the Stephans could have prevented their son’s untimely death.
[Dr. Bamidele] Adeagbo said his autopsy on March 19 of that year concluded the boy died of bacterial meningitis and a lung infection.
However, the judge ultimately sided with the defence’s medical expert, former chief medical officer, Dr. Anny Sauvageau in finding the boy had viral not bacterial meningitis and ultimately died of a lack of oxygen.
The complaint… said the judge made several comments about Dr. Adeagbo’s accent, and “inappropriately implicated his national or ethnic origin as a person of African roots.”
“We are of the view that Justice Clackson acted discriminatorily,” reads the complaint. “Some may perceive racism.”
One doctor called those comments “unnecessary.” The judge, they said, was biased toward the Canadian-born doctor, leading him to ignore the Nigerian doctor who conducted the autopsy.
If the judge overlooked scientific evidence for irrelevant reasons, then an investigation would be appropriate. That’s even more true when you realize this isn’t the first time the judge has been accused of this kind of charge. A couple of years ago, he also acquitted a man on sexual assault charges against his underage stepdaughter based on “myths and stereotypes.”
Clackson said he had doubt about the allegations made by the girl.
When she testified at her stepfather’s trial, she described her relationship with him as “OK, I guess.” She had also told police the two of them “kind of” got along.
That didn’t make sense to Clackson. He said that based on “logic and common sense,” he expected a victim of sexual abuse would demonstrate some sign of being sexually abused, or at the very least would try to avoid the person who was abusing her.
That “incongruity” was significant enough to leave him in doubt about the allegations. It led to Clackson finding the stepfather not guilty of three criminal charges.
When the person whose job is weighing the evidence isn’t aware of his own prejudices and ignorance, justice can’t be served. All the more reason for an investigation to occur as soon as possible.
(Thanks to Genevieve for the link)