Canada

Ontario couple convicted of killing their toddler through malnutrition get new trial after fresh evidence submitted

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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.

“The 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 videoconference 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.

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