Calgary judge rejects doctors’ opinions, finds stepfather not guilty of aggravated assault of 4-year-old
A Calgary stepfather accused of brutally beating a four-year-old girl was found not guilty after a judge ruled he believed the accused more than two medical experts.
Tyler Laberge, 34, was on trial for aggravated assault after his stepdaughter was rushed to hospital in March 2018 with a severe brain injury and bruises all over her body.
A publication ban protects the identity of the child. CBC News will call the girl Hannah.
Laberge was arrested and charged about nine months after Hannah’s injury. At the time, she was confined to a wheelchair, was not making full use of the left side of her body, and had problems with cognition and speech.
She has recovered somewhat and no longer needs a wheelchair.
Provincial Court Judge Terry Semenuk released an 82-page decision on Thursday acquitting Laberge who testified that Hannah was injured when she fell in the bathtub.
At the time, Laberge was alone with the child while his mother was at work.
He told police and testified that he heard a thudding noise while Hannah was in the tub. He said he found her face down in the water, pulled her out and performed CPR.
When Hannah was taken to hospital, her injury of most concern to doctors was a life-threatening “massive” brain hemorrhage.
She also suffered from bruises and abrasions to her face, chest, hips, stomach, spine, back, groin and genitals.
Child abuse expert Dr. Jennifer MacPherson testified that it was not possible for all injuries to have occurred during a “simple fall” as there were multiple areas of impact on the body. child’s body.
MacPherson said there was an “extremely high likelihood of inflicted trauma, possibly due to repetitive impacts.”
The doctor said earlier that there was no way the child’s injuries could have been caused by a fall.
At trial, she described the chances of Hannah being injured in a fall from a bathtub as “highly, very unlikely, extremely unlikely.”
But the judge rejected the doctor’s testimony and expressed concern about the confirmation bias.
The doctor’s opinion “usurps” the role of the judge: Semenuk
Semenuk said it was up to him to decide whether Hannah’s trauma was inflicted or accidental, not the doctor.
“[MacPherson’s opinion] goes beyond the scope of expertise and usurps the role of the trier of fact, ”said the judge.
Semenuk decided that it was possible that there was an innocent explanation for Hannah’s injuries.
The judge also dismissed concerns raised by prosecutors Pam McCluskey and Megan Riddell about Laberge’s behavior after he said he found Hannah unconscious in the tub.
The girl’s mother testified at the trial that Laberge called her while she was at work on March 11, 2018 and told her to come home.
Mom says Laberge didn’t allow her to call 911
She arrived within minutes to find her daughter unconscious and unconscious.
The mother asked Laberge to get her phone so she could call 911, but said he would not allow her to call an ambulance.
“She will be fine, she just has a concussion, she will wake up any minute,” he told her, according to the mother’s testimony.
When she asked for her phone, she said Laberge told her, “No, you’re going to call 911.”
The mother was finally able to convince Laberge to allow her to use her phone so that she could call Hannah’s father who urged them to take the unconscious girl to the hospital.
The 2nd doctor believes in a scenario of abuse
Laberge testified that he did not feel the urgency to see a doctor for Hannah because he did not know the difference between a sleeping child and an unconscious child.
“[Laberge] really felt [Hannah] was going to wake up any minute, “Semenuk wrote in his ruling.
He said he did not believe the mother’s testimony that Laberge did not allow him to get his phone or call 911.
At the hospital, doctors said Laberge Hannah’s condition was “serious”.
Medical examiner Dr Matthew Milburn Orde said Hannah was “deeply unconscious and unresponsive” upon her arrival.
Laberge denied the assault
He said he believed the child had suffered “several blows to the head” and also rejected the “simple fall” scenario.
“The extent and nature of the injuries sustained by [Hannah] are considered highly suggestive of non-accidental injuries, ”said Milburn Orde.
But Semenuk ruled that Milburn Orde disregarded Laberge’s testimony that he took Hannah out of the tub and performed CPR on her to draw conclusions about the multiple injuries.
Eventually, Semenuk sided with Laberge and said he accepted the accused’s testimony.
“I did not commit any aggravated assault,” Laberge said in his own defense.
The judge called Laberge “articulate” and said the evidence he had given was “reasonable and consistent”.
“I believe the accused. He did not assault [Hannah]. “
Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to appeal.
Defense attorneys Yoav Niv and Matt Deschaye have released a statement following Semenuk’s decision.
“Mr. Laberge has always maintained his innocence in relation to these accusations,” wrote Niv.
“He is relieved by this result.