OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has released written reasons for its decision to uphold the conviction of a foster father for the starvation of a child and the imminent death of his sister.
Both were in the care of Kevin Goforth and his wife.
The high court reinstated Goforth’s 2016 convictions for manslaughter and negligence causing bodily harm after hearing arguments in December. His wife Tammy was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 17 years.
The girls were rushed to a Regina hospital in 2012 and were found severely malnourished, dehydrated and covered in bruises. The four-year-old child died of a brain injury following a cardiac arrest. Her sister, who was two years old at the time, survived.
They had been in Goforth custody for nine months.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal had ordered a new trial for Kevin Goforth in early 2021. The court said the trial judge erred in her instructions to the jury because Tammy Goforth was the primary caregiver and her husband played a secondary role.
But Justice Suzanne Côté, who wrote the judgment on behalf of the Supreme Court, said Goforth would have been aware of what was happening.
“Given the evidence of child emaciation and neglect, the defendant’s alleged trust in his wife, his alleged limited interaction with the girls, and the girls’ alleged history of being picky eaters and suffering regular illnesses were not material circumstances for the jury to consider whether the defendant had the foresight required to be criminally responsible,” Côté wrote in reasons released Friday.
“The defendant was in a good position to observe the condition of the children, but he did nothing.”
Côté said that while the trial judge’s charge to the jury was “not perfect,” it was enough to let the jurors make an informed decision.
“Jurors do not check their common sense at the door of the deliberation room. Considering the evidence and the circumstances of the trial as a whole, I am satisfied that the jury in this case was well equipped to make a common sense assessment. “, she said. wrote.
“I am satisfied of the Crown’s argument that no substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice flowed from the deficient instructions.”
Cote wrote that the trial judge also told the jury that Goforth, who worked as a carpenter in Regina, which required him to work six days a week for 10 to 12 hours a day, was largely the breadwinner. of the family.
She noted that Goforth’s lawyer initially raised no concerns that the instructions to jurors undermined the argument that they might have been “misled or confused”.
“This belies the argument that the trial judge’s decision not to repeat evidence in an already lengthy jury charge was in error.”
Goforth’s case will return to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to consider an offer to reduce his sentence.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2022.
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary
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