National Post (Latest Edition)

Couple convicted in child’s death given a new trial

New evidence challenges Crown’s experts

- Adrian Humphreys National Post ahumphreys@ postmedia. com Twitter. com/ad_ Humphreys

Manslaught­er conviction­s against an Ontario mother and father for the death of their undernouri­shed twoyear-old daughter have been overturned and a new trial ordered after fresh evidence challenged the Crown’s medical experts.

In February 2011, Matinah Hosannah stopped breathing while in her mother’s arms. Her father called 911 but paramedics could not resuscitat­e the baby and she was pronounced dead in a hospital a short time later.

Her mother, Maria Hosannah, and father, Sean Hosannah, of Mississaug­a, were both charged with manslaught­er for allegedly failing to provide their daughter with the necessarie­s of life.

At a trial in 2014, a jury heard that Matinah was tiny, underweigh­t and poorly developed.

She could neither walk nor crawl by the age of two. Even though a family doctor allegedly told the parents the baby needed to see a specialist, she had no medical attention in the last year of her life, court heard then.

Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologis­t, testified at their trial that the girl suffered from malnutriti­on due to inadequate feeding and a diet deficient in protein and vitamins. She had a number of ailments linked to poor nourishmen­t.

He concluded she suffered an asthma attack while in a critical state of illness due to protein malnutriti­on and vitamin deficiency; that led to lack of oxygen, shock and death.

Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, a pediatric nutritioni­st, testified the girl showed signs of a long- standing unbalanced diet, severe malnutriti­on, protein and vitamin deficiency that stunted her developmen­t.

Despite the couple maintainin­g their innocence, a jury found them guilty of manslaught­er for failing to provide the necessarie­s of life.

The case was never about purposeful cruelty or neglect.

The prosecutor­s at trial accepted that the Hosannahs never wanted to hurt their daughter.

“This has been a very sad case for all concerned,” Justice John Sproat said at the time of their sentencing.

T here were, however, damaging choices made, the judge said. The family maintained a strict vegetarian diet and a philosophy that they only “eat to live,” according to accounts from the 2014 trial. They had an aversion to doctors, vaccinatio­ns and an abiding suspicion their daughter had been poisoned at birth.

The trial judge pondered aloud that the couple’s “distrust of medical profession­als” was an issue in Matinah’s death.

Maria Hosannah was sentenced to two years and her husband to two years less a day.

They promised to appeal at the time.

In the years since their trial, lawyers for the couple consulted with other medical profession­als and, in their joint appeal against their conviction­s, entered two medical opinions as “fresh evidence” at the Court of Appeals for Ontario.

Dr. Michael Shkrum, a forensic pathologis­t, challenged Pollanen’s evidence and said, in his view, the girl died of congestive heart failure due to an enlarged heart, possibly caused by vitamin deficiency and/or anemia.

In response to that report, Pollanen conceded asthma and an acute asthma attack did not have a role in her death but disagreed on congestive heart failure as the cause of death, attributin­g it to malnutriti­on, instead.

A second report by a specialist in pediatric bone disorders questioned Zlotkin’s evidence and concluded the child had severe Vitamin D deficiency rickets that could account for the symptoms the jury heard were attributed to protein deficiency.

In response, Zlotkin retained his belief Matinah suffered serious protein deficiency and was at risk of sudden death from protein-energy malnutriti­on.

The appeal court weighed the proposed new evidence.

“The proposed evidence is relevant to a decisive issue at trial — the cause of the deceased’s death,” the appeal decision says.

“T he appellants were charged with unlawful act manslaught­er. It was incumbent on the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, if it could, that the appellants’ unlawful act of failing to provide the necessarie­s of life was a substantia­l contributi­ng cause of the death of the deceased.

“The proposed evidence is relevant because of its tendency to show what caused the deceased to die and, by inference, whether her death originated in any unlawful conduct by the appellants.”

The court accepted the new reports and allowed the parent’s appeal of their conviction­s, the court ruled Thursday, on a video conference hearing.

A new trial was ordered. Maria Hosannah was pregnant at the time of her sentencing in 2015. Both parents had been released from custody pending the outcome of their appeal.

 ?? Dave Thomas / postmedia news files ?? Even though a family doctor allegedly told Maria Hosannah and her husband Sean their vulnerable baby needed to see a specialist, the child had no medical attention in the last year of her life, court has heard.
Dave Thomas / postmedia news files Even though a family doctor allegedly told Maria Hosannah and her husband Sean their vulnerable baby needed to see a specialist, the child had no medical attention in the last year of her life, court has heard.

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