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Alberta Appeal Court says sentence of parents in child's death had no error in law


CALGARY — Alberta's top court has rejected an appeal by a husband and wife who felt their sentences in the death of their 14-month-old son were too harsh.

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark were sentenced in June 2019 to 32 months in prison after a jury found them guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life. 

The trial heard that their son, John, didn't see a doctor until the day before the boy died in November 2013. 

A forensic pathologist testified the toddler was malnourished and died from a staph infection. 

Lawyers for the Clarks argued the sentence should have been lower because of a number of mitigating factors that the trial judge failed to consider, but the Appeal Court disagreed.

"The sentences here could have been lower or higher, but that is not a proper basis for appellate intervention," Justice Frans Slatter wrote on behalf of the panel.

"Just because the sentences were higher than those proposed by the appellants does not support an inference that mitigating factors were underemphasized to the extent that the sentences became demonstrably unfit," he added.

"The sentences imposed are not demonstrably unfit. The appeals are dismissed."

Jurors at the couple's trial saw photos of the dead child with a red rash all over his body and with blackened toes. They were also shown screenshots of online searches for natural remedies, including cabbage leaves and cayenne, for gangrene.

The couple's lawyers argued at trial that doctors at the Alberta Children's Hospital were to blame because they raised the boy's sodium and fluid levels too aggressively. 

The Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the Clarks' convictions last year. 

Both have already been released on parole.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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