John 'wasn't a starved baby' says medical examiner at trial for parents of dead boy

Jury to start deliberations in trial for Calgary parents charged in baby's death

After calling 15 witnesses, the prosecution has closed its case against two Calgary parents accused of refusing to take their dying baby to a doctor. It's not yet known if Jennifer and Jeromie Clark will testify in their own defence.

Jennifer, 41, and Jeromie, 38, are each charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Their 14-month-old son John died of malnutrition and a staph infection in 2013.

The Crown's final witness, medical examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, was cross-examined Thursday, telling jurors John "wasn't a starved baby, he wasn't a beaten child."

Brooks-Lim earlier testified John had a rare rash caused by nutritional deficiency and he ultimately died of malnutrition and sepsis.

The Clarks brought John to a Calgary hospital on the afternoon of Nov. 28, 2013.

John was "on death's doorstep" by the time his parents brought him to a doctor, according to Crown prosecutor Shane Parker. 

The baby had a severe, blistering rash over 70 per cent of his body and was in septic shock at the time, according to doctors who treated the boy. Several of the baby's toes were black with gangrene, which a doctor previously testified would have taken at least a week to happen. 

John died less than 24 hours later of what was later determined to be a staph infection.

The couple's defence lawyers, David Chow and John Phillips, have suggested the boy could have died after contracting an infection at the hospital or if doctors increased John's saline levels too quickly. Brooks-Lim agreed rapid correction of sodium levels could cause death. 

The medical examiner also opened the door to the possibility one of John's parents could have suffered from a rare genetic disorder that may have predisposed the baby to malnutrition.

Google searches for natural remedies 

Earlier in the week, jurors heard from a Calgary police forensic digital examiner who found several searches on the Clark family's computer seeking information on gangrene and potential treatments.

More than two weeks before John was taken to hospital, searches were done on the family's laptop about poor circulation in the feet and eczema.

John's parents told doctors he had eczema but a dermatologist testified the boy's rash was likely due to a nutritional deficiency. Police found nutrition-related searches on the Clark's computer from the months prior to his death.

Earlier in the trial, jurors also heard evidence that John's brain was about half the size it should have been for a child his age and that he had missed major developmental milestones — he wasn't able to crawl or pull himself up yet.

Searches included: "can ginger help eczema;" "gangrene cayenne as a treatment;" "natural cure for wet gangrene;" and "can cabbage leaves help gangrene."

Some of the searches were done on Nov. 27 and 28, though police couldn't determine when others were done.  

Jurors will return Monday when the defence will decide whether to call any witnesses.