Tuesday, March 18, 2008

'I can forgive him as a person, but...' (2oo7)

Posted By Luke Hendry

Sherry Sherret says she's ready to forgive the man who helped put her in jail, but not his actions.

The Belleville mother served eight months of a one-year infanticide sentence after evidence from Dr. Charles Smith contributed to her conviction. Later findings indicated the 1996 death of Sherret's four-month-old son was due to natural causes.

Her case is now scheduled to come before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Sherret and her family have spent the week in Toronto listening to Smith testify at the public inquiry into his Smith's discredited work as a pathologist.

"I didn't get an apology, but I would have accepted one," Sherret, now 32, told The Intelligencer via cellular phone Friday evening. She and her family were returning from Toronto, but stuck in rush-hour traffic worsened by the day's snowstorm.

In another interview the previous evening, Sherret said Smith's week of testimony was insightful.

"We've learned quite a bit ... about him," she said.

"I can forgive him as a person, but I can't forgive his actions ... It was those actions that put me away. It's troubling to think of why he'd do that in his position, knowing full well he could actually put someone away that didn't do anything.

"My mom told me not to hate people, but hate their actions," she said, noting others should share in the blame.

"It's not 110 per cent his fault. Obviously nobody was watching, and I've stood by that. They would have said, 'This is a problem. It stops now. No more.'

"And we've found a lot of that throughout this week: that there was the lack of upper management watching him."

On Thursday, Smith apologized directly to William Mullins-Johnson, who was convicted wrongly in the death of his niece.

Smith lost his composure while speaking to Mullins-Johnson. Sherret said that was a surprising contrast to the doctor's "scripted" comments earlier in the week.

Sherret said Smith's first attempt at apologizing to the wrongly convicted didn't seem convincing.

"When he says 'sorry' or he deeply apologizes, he looks directly at his lawyer," Sherret said. "Monday seemed like a completely scripted day. As the days progressed, he seemed less scripted."

But even then, she said, Smith gave indirect answers or claimed he did not recall details.

"I'm sitting here thinking, 'How many things do you not remember?' Because this is a lot of people you've caused turmoil for in their lives, and you're sitting up there saying, 'I don't recall most of this.'

"Not once did he ever acknowledge that we were there at all, up until today," Sherret said Thursday, adding it made his sudden show of emotion that much more startling.

"The crying part caught me off-guard for sure."

Sherret said she had hoped to speak to Smith "off-record" to ask him about his work and ask him, "Well, now are you truly remorseful? Because this is the spot you put me in back in 1996."

The inquiry revealed Smith had lied under oath while testifying in past cases as an expert; Sherret said she hopes "there will be some discipline" as a result.

She added she was glad a child advocate was present at Friday's hearing, because it was made clear that children other than those who died had been affected by the pathologist's mishandling of cases. Sherret now has a daughter, but a second son was adopted by another family after her conviction, meaning she can't see him until he's 18.

Sherret said she still gets letters from and pictures of him, but "it doesn't change the fact that I don't get to see him play baseball or anything like that, and that hurts, because I hear he's a pretty good baseball player."

Once the inquiry and her court appeal are over, the Nova Scotia native said she plans to return to that province, where her family still lives.

"I want to go back home. Home is where the heart is, and it's always been there."



Anonymous said...

I am so sorry this happened to you and your loved ones,Please know that a lot of people are thinking of you and hope your life from now is more than perfect.
Take Care I Care
Ruth K.

Slamdunk said...

Powerful story--thanks for sharing your honest thoughts.