CALGARY — An Alberta judge refused to delay the trial of a Calgary couple accused of causing their baby's death after the man refused to waive his charter rights Friday.
Jeromie and Jennifer Clark are charged with criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life in the death of their 14-month-old son John.
Police began investigating after the boy was brought to the hospital by his parents on Nov. 28, 2013. He was treated but died the following day.
The medical examiner found the boy died because of a staph infection complicated by malnutrition.
Jennifer Clark fired her lawyer in February and wanted the June trial put over until September 2018 to give her new counsel time to prepare.
But her husband refused to waive his charter right to a timely trial, saying he didn't want to continue being separated from his other children for another 18 months.
"I've been very torn by the situation. I didn't anticipate this because of the lengthy delay," Jeromie Clark told the court.
"My boys were three and seven when my son died. They're now seven and 11. If I were to wait until the delay, my sons would be, with an appeal, 11 and 14."
As part of their bail conditions, neither are allowed to have contact with their children.
"Being found innocent, I would still have lost their childhood. I don't know how to feel about being in a position to choose whether my wife receives a lawyer or not for a very important trial," Jeromie Clark told the court.
"So I can't be a husband for my wife who needs a lawyer but I can't be a father and miss my children's childhood — so I don't waive my rights."
Defence lawyer David Chow told court this wasn't a tactic being employed by his client.
"I don't want to leave the court with the impression that my client is responsible for any undue brinkmanship with regard to scheduling," Chow said.
The Crown had suggested the court should have some "deep suspicions" that Jennifer Clark was trying to help her husband by delaying the trial. He could have argued the charges against him be dismissed because he was being denied a reasonably timely trial.
But Justice Glen Poelman rejected the request for an adjournment. He said Jennifer Clark had plenty of time to find a new lawyer in time for the June 5 trial.
Poelman said Jeromie Clark is "ready and anxious to proceed in a timely fashion for personal reason" and that Jennifer Clark's preference for a female lawyer with expertise in these kind of cases is unreasonable.
"She had the luxury of that degree of choice at the outset of the case or perhaps even a year or so ago but not now. Thus the adjournment is refused," he said.
"In my view she has not acted reasonably and honestly and diligently as required in the circumstances of this case to secure a replacement of counsel."
Poelman said the trial will go ahead as scheduled leaving Jennifer Clark with two options.
"Ms. Clark will be left, again regretfully, with trying to secure other counsel who is available to conduct the trial as scheduled or to represent herself."
The court will receive an update April 28.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press