A Regina mother accused of killing her 18-month-old son has been found not guilty.
Chelsea Whitby, 27, was on trial for second-degree murder after autopsy results determined her son Emerson died from a brain bleed due to blunt force head trauma on June 10, 2020.
Justice Catherine Dawson delivered her verdict to a packed courtroom in Regina Tuesday morning—finding Whitby not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
“I recognize that this is an emotional trial and decision,” Dawson said before reading out her decision.
“It is clear to me that everyone who knew Emerson is heartbroken.”
According to the judge’s decision, there are reasonable alternatives for Emerson’s cause of death that do not include Whitby intentionally harming her son.
Other inferences from the evidence suggest Emerson could have had a prior brain injury that was susceptible to re-bleeding, and a re-bleed could have caused his death—a theory put forward by one of the expert witnesses during the trial and an argument the defence made in closing remarks.
“We were pleased with the result. It was something we were hoping for and hopefully expecting,” Whitby’s lawyer, Darren Kraushaar, told reporters outside the Court of King’s Bench in Regina on Tuesday.
“Now it’s just a matter of Chelsea’s got to decide what she’s going to do from here. Her life has been on hold for three years so it’s going to be a matter of moving on from here.”
The Crown originally put forward a case to show a pattern of abuse between Whitby and her son and that Chelsea was “wildly inattentive” to Emerson’s care.
In June, prior to closing arguments, Justice Dawson ruled that most of the prosecution’s evidence – including previous injuries and the events leading up to Emerson’s death – were inadmissible.
As a result, the Crown argued for the lesser conviction of manslaughter during closing remarks.
“We were faced with some rulings that changed the course of our case,” said Crown prosecutor Adam Breker.
“Some of those evidentiary rulings didn’t go our way and that left the judge with the evidence that she had to consider the case.”
The Crown argued Whitby was frustrated and overwhelmed caring for her son and she intentionally injured Emerson the morning of June 10 in a “moment of rage.”
“We’re disappointed for the family and friends of Emerson,” Breker explained.
“Though of course no matter what happened here today – Emerson’s never coming back and that tragedy will remain no matter what. But we’re certainly disappointed with the outcome today.”
The Crown said it will consider an appeal over the next 30 days.