Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Convicted Belleville woman gets appeal

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Belleville woman convicted of killing her infant son nearly a decade ago based on testimony from a now-discredited pathologist has been given a second chance to clear her name.

Ontario's highest court has granted Sherry Sherrett a one-week extension to file an appeal.
Sherrett's lawyer said he expects to launch the appeal within the next few days.

The 32-year-old was convicted in the 1996 death of her four-month-old son Joshua.

During an autopsy, Doctor Charles Smith concluded there were signs consistent with homicide on Joshua's body.

Last year, the conviction was called into question after the child's body was exhumed and a second autopsy found no evidence of homicide.

CTV Videos (2oo8)


Here is a link to CTV.ca I was unable to copy the links to the Videos they have here.

There is 4 Videos, hopefully you are all able to see them.

Pathologist's training was 'woefully inadequate' (2oo8)

Dr. Charles Smith sits on the stand at the Goudge inquiry in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 28. 2008. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Dr. Charles Smith sits on the stand at the Goudge inquiry in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 28. 2008. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Sherry Sherrett, who was convicted in the death of her son based on Smith's findings, speaks with Canada AM on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008.

Sherry Sherrett, who was convicted in the death of her son based on Smith's findings, speaks with Canada AM on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008.

Updated: Mon Jan. 28 2008 10:29:47

CTV.ca News Staff

Disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith, whose child death investigations resulted in a number of wrongful convictions, testified today that his training as a pathologist was "woefully inadequate."

Smith is testifying at a public inquiry in Toronto into systemic errors in the field of pediatric forensics.

The inquiry was ordered after serious doubts were raised about opinions given by Smith in roughly 20 cases of suspicious child deaths. In more than 12 of those cases, Smith's decisions led to criminal investigations or convictions.

Smith opened his testimony with an apology for his "mistakes."

"I do accept full responsibility for my work, for my opinions and for my action," said Smith.

"I do recognize that many people have questions for me and I will answer and provide testimony as best I can to help clarify these questions.''

He admitted that his training in forensic pathology was "minimal,'' that he was basically "self taught'' and that his behaviour at times was unprofessional.

Smith also said that despite the numerous cases in which he gave expert testimony, he now recognizes that he was "profoundly ignorant" of the role of expert witnesses and the way the criminal justice system works.

However, when asked about being described in the media as someone who saw abuse in every child's death, he said the description was "grossly erroneous."

The inquiry has heard months of testimony from experts and former colleagues.

Victims seek answers

One father spent more than a decade in prison for the death of his niece before being exonerated, and several mothers spent years in prison before the cases against them fell apart.

Sherry Sherret, who was convicted of killing her son based on an autopsy by Smith, travelled to Toronto to attend the hearing in hopes of getting some answers.

"I guess (I hope to receive) the answers," she told CTV's Canada AM.

"Why? If you needed help, why didn't you ask, why did you choose to do this? Why did you not ask for the help, say, 'could someone else go over this just to make sure it's right,'? It's just confusing as to why, honestly."

Sherret's own conviction in the death of her young son, who was sleeping in a playpen when he died, turned her life upside down, she told Canada AM.

She lost custody of her older son, who she hasn't seen since 1999 and is now being raised by his adoptive family. Sherret also spent several years in jail, and at times felt her life was over.

"It's been a long journey," she said, noting that she has since remarried and has a young daughter, but still looks forward to her son's 18th birthday, when she can see him again.

William Mullins-Johnson was also convicted based on Smith's findings. He spent 12 years in jail for the death of his niece before his conviction was quashed after six experts found no evidence to support Smith's finding that the girl had been sodomized and asphyxiated.

Lawyer Peter Wardle told The Canadian Press the parents and families affected by Smith's mistakes will be expecting more than just an apology.

"Many of them have waited 10 -- in one case 20 -- years to hear him give his side of the story," said Wardle, who represents several of the families.

"They all have questions they want answered."

Although his clients felt the apology delivered in November was "too little, too late," they're anxious to hear what Smith has to say, Wardle added.

The mandate of the inquiry is broader than just Smith's work, however.

Its objective is to take a look at errors that exist in Ontario's pediatric pathology system. Smith is facing a room full of lawyers seeking insight into how his work in pediatric pathology often served only to worsen the tragedy of a child's death.

With files from The Canadian Press

Woman convicted in son’s death wants appeal before public inquiry into pathologist (2oo7)

Provided by: The Canadian Press
Written by: KEITH LESLIE
Apr. 23, 2007

Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant. (CPimages)

TORONTO -An Ontario woman convicted in 1999 of killing her infant son said Monday that a public inquiry into the work of former pathologist Dr. Charles Smith should not delay the fight to clear her name.

Sherry Sherrett said the Ontario government continues to block her efforts to appeal the conviction, despite a new autopsy showing her four-month-old son, Joshua, died of natural causes and an expert panel questioning Smith's work.

As a result, the Trenton, Ont., woman has gone public with her fight.

"I woke up to my son gone. He was taken from me. And from that day on, I became a baby killer. It haunts me still to this day," an emotional Sherrett told a news conference.

"People had labelled me as a baby killer, and when you hear this for so long you begin to doubt yourself. Only Joshua knows at this point that I never harmed him."

Sherrett wiped away tears as she spoke about Joshua's death, the first-degree murder charge laid against her, and about another son, now 13, who she will not be allowed to see until his eighteenth birthday.

"He sends me pictures. I'm updated twice a year and those packages, when I get them, I hold them in my lap and read over and over and over again," she said.

In 1999, Smith, then a pathologist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, gave evidence at the criminal trial which ultimately saw Sherrett convicted of killing Joshua.

"To this day, I regularly visit his grave," said Sherrett. "I take care of his flowers, and I sit and talk with him and hope that he hears me, to know that I love him, and that I never stopped loving him."

Attorney General Michael Bryant could easily help Sherrett clear her name by allowing her to appeal her conviction to the Ontario Court of Appeal, said lawyer James Lockyer of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.

"She spent a year in jail for something that never happened," said Lockyer.

"She's lived with the aura of being a killer of her own child for all those years. For God's sake, Michael Bryant, do something about it today."

Earlier Monday, Bryant announced a full-scale public inquiry into Smith's work, something he was criticized for not doing immediately last week after a coroner's report questioned the pathologist's findings in 20 of 45 cases that were reviewed.

"I don't know why he didn't have the class to do it on Thursday," complained Lockyer. "Thank heaven he's had the class to do it today."

The name of the judge that will head the public inquiry and the terms of reference will be announced Wednesday after they're approved by the Liberal cabinet, said Bryant.

"We felt that power, of subpoena for people and documents, was important in these circumstances," Bryant told The Canadian Press in an interview.

Sherrett asked the media to pressure Bryant to help her appeal the conviction, saying he promised as much after the release of the coroner's report into Dr. Smith's work.

"Last Thursday, the attorney general said he would do everything to write the wrongs," said Sherrett.

"So far, his Crown (attorneys) flatly refused to right my wrong. How much longer does he think I should live with everything from the past, with the shame of being convicted of killing my own child?"

William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his four-year-old niece Valin, said Monday that he agreed with Sherrett about how hard it would be to shake the killer label.

"That label, Sherry's right, we'll have to deal with this for the rest of our lives," he said. "It's more than a stain on a person's life. It's a deep cut that a Band-Aid just can't heal."

Both Sherrett and Mullins-Johnson said they wanted to see Dr. Smith testify under oath at the public inquiry.

"I no longer have to account for anything at all, but Dr. Smith does," said Sherrett.

Mullins-Johnson, who was released from custody last year after evidence surfaced that Smith had lost tissue samples capable of showing Valin died of natural causes, agreed.

"Something has to be done. This guy has to be held accountable somehow, some way."

Mullins-Johnson's case has been sent to the federal justice minister for review, a process that could be completed as early as next month.

Smith's lawyer, Niels Ortved, refused to comment Monday on the province's move to call a public inquiry into Smith's work. Ortved told The Canadian Press that he doesn't even know yet whether he'll be representing Smith at the public inquiry.

Ont. to review wrongful convictions in child deaths (2oo7)

Wrongly convicted mother Sherry Sherrett speaks during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday, April 23, 2007.

Wrongly convicted mother Sherry Sherrett speaks during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday, April 23, 2007.

Dr. Charles Smith

Dr. Charles Smith

Ont. to review wrongful convictions in child deaths

Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario's chief prosecutor moved Tuesday to address the cases of two people who may have been wrongly convicted of killing their children based, in part, on questionable pathology work that is now the subject of a public inquiry.

Sherry Sherrett, who spent a year in prison for the 1996 death of her infant son, was given permission to take her case to the Ontario Court of Appeal amid mounting pressure from legal advocates and a new autopsy suggesting the four-month-old likely died of natural causes.

Sherrett's case was among 45 child autopsies reviewed by an expert panel after concerns were raised about Dr. Charles Smith, the pathologist who conducted them.

A review by the Ontario coroner's office questioned Smith's finding in 20 autopsies, 12 of which resulted in criminal convictions and one in a finding of not criminally responsible.

The province has called a public inquiry into the matter.

Attorney General Michael Bryant said officials wrote Sherrett's lawyer Tuesday to confirm that the government would allow her to appeal her conviction.

"From our perspective, it's crystal clear as to the Crown's position: We're here to act as expeditiously as possible, but there is a process to follow,'' Bryant said.

Bryant said the Crown has also agreed to support a bail application for Marco Trotta, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1998 for the death of his infant son. Trotta is the only person convicted in part on Smith's evidence who is still behind bars.

Bryant said the Crown consented to Trotta's application for release while his case is appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"Just in the last couple of hours, Crown counsel has consented to the defence application for bail. It'll ultimately be for the court to decide whether or not to release,'' he said.

"It's another example of the Crown responding as expeditiously as possible once defence file their papers.''

Bryant said he would let people know Wednesday about any plans to compensate possible victims when he announces the terms of reference for the public inquiry and the name of the judge who will lead the investigation.

"We're very happy that the attorney general has decided to take action that we think is highly appropriate in the circumstances of these cases,'' said Paul Copeland, co-president of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. The consortium of lawyers has agreed to represent nine of the 13 people it alleges were unfairly prosecuted because of Smith's work.

Copeland suggested the scathing coroner's report and reaction to it has likely prompted the province to expedite the cases, but added he's not one to criticize the government when it's doing the right thing.

Should the province decide to compensate victims, he expects the one lawsuit currently before the courts and any subsequent ones that may be forthcoming against Smith won't proceed.

"If the province actually does an adequate job of compensating, I'm not so sure people are going to spend their time and energy chasing after Dr. Smith,'' Copeland said.

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