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)

http://beta.ctvdigital.net/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080128/smith_pathologist_080128?hub=BritishColumbiaHome


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)

CTV.ca
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.

© 2009 CTVglobemedia All Rights Reserved.

Canadian Pathologist Regrets Errors in Evidence (2oo7)

Nov 13 2007

TORONTO
(AP) -- A Canadian pathologist whose expert testimony led to wrongful convictions for several people accused of killing small children, including one man who spent a decade in jail, said Monday that he was ''truly sorry'' for his mistakes.

A public inquiry into the work of Dr. Charles Smith, once considered the country's leading pediatric pathologist, was read a statement in which he apologized for errors in analyzing 20 cases of child deaths. Twelve led to convictions, some of which have been thrown out by courts.

Smith did not appear as the government-appointed commission opened its inquiry, and his statement was read by his lawyer, Niels Ortved.

''Dr. Smith wishes to publicly acknowledge ... that in the 20 years that he performed autopsies at the direction of the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, he made a number of mistakes for which he is truly sorry,'' Ortved said.

''In retrospect, he understands that in some 20 cases which form the basis of this inquiry, his work, while to the best of his ability at the time, was simply not good enough in certain circumstances.''

Smith has not been charged with any crimes, and is not expected to testify before the inquiry until January. He stopped performing autopsies in 2001 after several cases in which he was involved fell apart amid questions about the quality of his work.

The commission has no authority to punish Smith or evaluate past convictions. It is reviewing Ontario's pediatric forensic system and will recommend changes in order to restore public confidence amid accusations that Smith repeatedly made errors that tore families apart.

Though Smith acknowledged he made mistakes, he claimed the errors were ''made honestly and without any intention to harm or obstruct the pediatric death investigations in which he was involved.''

The probe was ordered by Ontario's provincial government seven months ago after an investigation of 45 child deaths involving autopsies or expert testimony from Smith found the pathologist made questionable findings in 20 cases dating back to 1991.

In one case, Smith's testimony played a key role in the conviction of a man who spent 12 years in jail for sexually assaulting and strangling his 4-year-old niece. Evidence later surfaced that showed the girl died of natural causes, and William Mullins-Johnson was exonerated last month.

Mullins-Johnson told CBC television that Smith's actions destroyed his life and that he hoped the pathologist will face criminal conviction.

In another case, a mother was charged with murder after Smith testified at a pretrial hearing that her daughter died of multiple stab wounds. A later autopsy found the girl was mauled by a pit bull. The mother, Louise Reynolds, spent two years in jail awaiting trial before she was exonerated.

Smith's testimony also led to the conviction of a mother who spent a year in prison for the 1996 death of her infant son. Sherry Sherrett is appealing her conviction for infanticide after another pathologist determined the boy died of natural causes. After Sherrett was charged, the province put one of her other children up for adoption.

Just last week, Canada's Supreme Court ordered a new trial for a couple convicted in the death of their infant son because Smith's testimony was discredited by new evidence from two other doctors.


Digital Journal's Autopsy of a Disgraced Pathologist Who Killed the Coroner's Office (2oo7)



May 2, 2007 by David Silverberg


We put our trust in the legal system to convict criminals. But what happens when a pediatric pathologist abuses that trust and ruins people’s lives? An inside look at Dr. Charles Smith’s fall from grace and why an inquiry is only half a solution.



Digital Journal — In Ontario, Canada, a forensic pathologist was sending mothers and fathers to jail for supposedly killing kids. He studied skull X-rays and facial wounds, listened to testimony, and urged police to investigate cases he found suspicious. He also practised some unusual behaviour — in 1997, he took along his 11-year-old son to a graveyard to witness an exhumation of a dead baby boy. Dr. Charles Smith is now enduring heavy criticism for failing to research cases thoroughly, and ultimately sending parents to jail without proper evidence to back up the decision. A review of 45 autopsies Smith oversaw revealed that he apparently erred in 20 of them. And today, a father who was convicted for killing his baby, partly based on expert evidence from this disgraced pathologist, was granted bail after spending nine years in prison. As soon as it became known last month that Smith made mistakes in several autopsies, legal watchdogs demanded an immediate public inquiry. The Ontario government stalled one day before answering the call for an inquiry. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province bears a “heavy responsibility” to conduct a detailed investigation. Why did Ontario delay, even if it was for 24 hours? It’s as if the government was waiting to see if there would be an incensed reaction to Smith’s alleged incompetence. Exhibiting that hesitancy, though, rained down a storm of criticism on the political body responsible for balanced justice.
James Lockyer, a lawyer for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, at his office in Toronto, ON. - Photo by Digital Journal


Take a look at the serious consequences behind the errors committed by Smith, an evangelical Christian now living in British Columbia. Among the 20 cases under scrutiny, 12 of them resulted in convictions. One Eastern Ontario woman, Sherry Sherrett, is trying to appeal her 1999 infanticide conviction, even though her window of time to do has long since closed. Smith managed to slip under the radar because his peers may have been hesitant to question his work. “[Smith] managed to convince his colleagues that he was brilliant, and they became apprehensive about taking him on,” James Lockyer, a lawyer for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, told the Globe & Mail. The role of a forensic pathologist should not be taken lightly. Often called as an expert witness, the pathologist is an aid to Crown attorneys looking for the exact reason for a person’s death. There are very few experts of this nature, so their opinions matter immensely. That responsibility has given pathologists an almost God-like status which can sometimes boost egos. “Pathologists tended to illuminate themselves, and the courtroom provided a platform,” said Dr. John Butt, a former medical examiner who reviewed Smith’s past cases. Butt went on to attack certain practises that give pathologists unprecedented control. “What is a forensic pathologist doing reading a skull X-ray?” he said in a Globe article. “I know of a system — not Ontario — where it was a house rule that X-rays were read by radiologists. But when the money got a little tight, that went out the window. The defence ought to have been saying: ‘Wait a minute. What is your expertise in reading X-rays?’” Criticism levelled at Smith will undoubtedly reach public ears during the inquiry, but is that enough? The Ontario government, and particularly the attorney general, should be held accountable for allowing Smith to hoodwink lawyers for so long. As the Law Times points out, the inquiry should look into whether there was any cover-up in the coroner’s office or the Crown’s office for fear of liability. As well, the process of hiring new employees at the coroner’s office should be thoroughly investigated, apart from the actual inquiry. A makeover is due. Even before the hiring step, pathology education needs to be overhauled. As Butt suggests, Canada should adopt national standards for this medical stream, instead of the current inconsistent standards tabled by individual provinces. Butt also notes that Canada is only just catching up to the UK and the US when it comes to properly training pathologists. What kind of impression does this give to grieving families? Or to young students in both the pathology and legal fields? In this case, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, but at the very least, this rotting fruit is exposing us to a flawed branch in the coroner’s office. It’s sad, yet also routine, that change only comes when a disaster hits home. Ontario residents might be feeling the pain, but the Smith controversy should impact anyone fascinated with what goes on behind the curtain of the justice system.

Woman convicted of infanticide wants name cleared (2oo7)

CTV.ca
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

Woman convicted of infanticide wants name cleared

CTV.ca News Staff

A mother convicted of killing her child based on erroneous testimony from former Toronto pathologist Charles Smith called on Ontario's attorney general Monday to act quickly to correct the situation.

"Last Thursday, the Attorney General (Michael Bryant) said that he'd do everything to right the wrongs," Sherry Sherrett said at a press conference.

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

Sherrett spent a year in prison for the death of her four-month-old son Joshua, convicted in 1999 largely on the basis of Smith's damning evidence.

Her conviction was one of 13 placed in doubt after a review of Smith's case by Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner.

As part of the review, Joshua Sherrett's tiny body was exhumed. The body was found to have no marks of violence.

What Smith took to be a skull fracture was apparently nothing more than a normal anatomical feature. Further, neck wounds that Smith testified were cause for "consternation,'' instead appear to have been caused by a scalpel used at the autopsy.

The review found it likely that Joshua died accidentally, perhaps when the comforter in his crib became bunched around his head.

"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,'' said an emotional Sherrett, wiping away tears as she spoke about Joshua's death.

Despite the new autopsy showing her son Joshua died of natural causes, Sherrett alleges that the Ontario government continues to block her efforts to appeal the conviction.

In 1999, the Crown noted that Sherrett may have "smothered" her child while suffering postpartum depression, and offered to drop the charge to infanticide. Although Sherrett says she was innocent, she chose to plead guilty rather than face a second-degree murder trial involving testimony from Smith -- considered at the time to be the continent's leading pediatric forensic pathologist.

In 2000, Sherrett's eldest child was later seized by authorities and adopted. Because of her conviction, Sherrett is forbidden to see her son until he is 18.

Lawyer James Lockyer, with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, also criticized Bryant for not acting to help Sherrett clear her name.

"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," he said at the press conference.

Lockyer said Bryant and his office have known about Sherrett's case as early as March 2006 but "have refused to do anything."

Public inquiry

A review of 43 of Smith's child autopsies found that he had made errors in 20.

Thirteen of those cases resulted in criminal convictions, and one person is still behind bars.

The Ontario government will hold a public inquiry into the matter, after former Ontario Superior Court chief justice Patrick LeSage completes an audit on how forensic pathology reports are handled, to prevent future problems.

The inquiry will have the power to subpoena witnesses into Smith's work.

Bryant said earlier that the government has found a senior judge to head the inquiry. The name of the commissioner and the terms of reference will be made public on Wednesday.

CTV's legal expert and defence attorney Steven Skurka says he welcomes an inquiry.

"The system broke down because the system relied on an expert coming and testifying, in good faith, with no checks or balances. That's the problem. Too much faith was put in this one expert," Skurka told Canada AM.

"And obviously, we have to learn lessons. We have to look to competing experts, other forensic pathologists and get their opinions.

"Expert witnesses play such an important role in criminal trials because it's really -- the jury doesn't understand it. They rely on that expert. That's why we need to have checks and balances to make sure when they testify they do so objectively and impartially."

© 2008 CTVglobemedia All Rights Reserved.

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Victims Of Pathologist Say Apology Not Good Enough (2oo8)


2008/01/28 | CityNews.ca Staff


Victims Of Pathologist Say Apology Not Good Enough

They suffered three times by the actions of a single man. First by the accusations that they killed their own children or young relatives. Then by being put through the court system and in some cases serving time in jail for a crime they never committed. And finally for the lingering suspicion that will forever surround them, despite being proven innocent.

They are the victims of Dr. Charles Smith, the pathologist whose findings helped cast a cloud around dozens of people over the past two decades. While the scientist publicly apologized for his grievous mistakes Monday at an inquiry called to explore his actions, those who became victims of the physician's terrible errors aren't quite so ready to forgive and forget.

For William Mullins-Johnson (top left), who was sentenced to life in prison and spent a dozen years behind bars for molesting and killing his own niece, no apologies, no matter how heartfelt, will ever be enough to make up for what he lost.

"He put me in an environment where I could have been killed any day, any given day, based on lies," he notes bitterly. "So I don't hold much stock in apologies from him. I don't hold much stock in apologies from anybody in the field at the time, because they were propping him up. They were protecting him. I wasn't. I was doing the life sentence for something that didn't even happen."

Sherry Sherrett can feel his pain, because she shared it. The Trenton, Ontario mother was convicted of killing her four-month-old son in 1996, based mostly on Smith's sworn testimony.

She spent a year in jail on first-degree murder charges after the doctor found her infant died from a skull fracture and neck trauma in 1996. He believed the evidence pointed directly at the then-20-year-old, but when other pathologists re-examined the case, they discovered the death was actually caused by the baby getting his head caught in his bedding.

Now she wonders how he can live with himself after putting so many through so much.

"I would want to ask him face-to-face off the record, you know, why did he do it? How does he feel? And, you know, does he regret anything that he did? Because he doesn't know what it's like to be locked up, and, you know, you get called names. Your life is threatened when you're away and nothing can ever change that."

Sherrett knows if she can become an innocent victim so can anyone. And when the weight of the justice system is brought down with all the force of law on a person of limited means, it's a crushing force that's all but inescapable.

She questions what it takes to become deemed a true 'expert' in the field. "He's not a forensic pathologist," she insists. "He wasn't trained to do forensics. I watch CSI all the time. Can I be one?"

And she's not prepared to accept Smith's mea culpa. "He's turned so many people's lives upside down, it's time for him to answer."

Sherett's tragedy has been compounded because she lost custody of her other son, who has since been adopted.

Mullins-Johnson believes the doctor's performance was the proverbial crocodile tears. "Sugarcoated apology as far as I can see," he condemns. "There's really not much there to redeem him."

He's slowly repairing the terrible rift the case has put on his once loving family. How does he get through each day knowing some people still suspect him of such a heinous crime? "The old saying goes, keep a stiff upper lip and the best revenge is to live well, you know? And that's what I'm trying to do."

Mullins-Johnson was officially cleared of all charges in an emotional courtroom scene last October. He's expected to seek compensation for the life he lost while in prison. It's not yet clear how much he might ask for or how much he may be offered.

Sherrett is hoping the Crown will also acknowledge her innocence. She'll have her day in court next fall. Until then, she's been released from jail - but her conviction stands.

Most of the others who've felt the sting of Smith's trials of tribulations felt the same way and think more than just an apology is warranted.

For a review of just some of the cases where Smith's testimony led to a false or questionable conviction, click here.

Review all pathologist's cases: experts (2oo8)

Dr. Charles Smith

Tom Blackwell, National Post Published: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Authorities should consider reviewing every child-welfare case where Dr. Charles Smith played a key role--and return apprehended children to their parents if appropriate, two leading experts have urged.

Most of the controversy around the Ontario pathologist's flawed child-death investigations has stemmed from the wrongful homicide prosecutions his opinions triggered. But in a paper commissioned by the Goudge judicial inquiry, professors at Queen's and McGill universities discuss another scenario: parents whose surviving children were taken from them because Dr. Smith erroneously concluded they killed another offspring.

"If forensic pediatric pathology reports are unreliable, there are likely to be profound implications in the child protection system," said the paper by Nick Bala and Nico Trocme.

Prof. Bala is a family law expert at Queen's and Prof. Trocme, a social-work faculty member at McGill, is a leading expert in child abuse.

They note that a review of child-welfare cases was conducted in Britain after a similar affair involving a pediatrician's discredited court testimony. Children were reunited with their parents in two of the doctor's cases.

It is unclear how many, if any, siblings apprehended after deaths that Dr. Smith investigated are still in the care of children's aid societies here. If some are and it is in their interests to rejoin their families, "the agency should … take all reasonable steps to support the reunification of parents and child," the report says.

However, if the children have already been adopted, it would be too traumatizing to remove them from that family now. It might be beneficial, though, to allow the birth parents some access to the children, the professors say.

The inquiry was called after an outside review found that Dr. Smith made significant errors in 20 of 45 criminally suspicious child deaths he investigated between 1991 and 2001. Parents and caregivers were charged with homicide offences in most deaths, though many have since been cleared. In at least seven of those cases, children's aid societies seized other children from the parents following the death. In some instances, they were returned to their families. In others, it is unclear from case summaries produced by the inquiry what happened to the siblings after being removed.

When the baby known as Joshua died at age four months in 1996 and his mother, Sherry Sherrett, was charged with first-degree murder, the infant's brother was apprehended and later adopted out. Authorities also tried, unsuccessfully, to seize another child born to Ms. Sherrett in 2005. Ms. Sherrett was eventually found guilty of the lesser offence of infanticide but is fighting to have that conviction overturned in light of Dr. Smith's questioned evidence.

The paper submitted to the inquiry outlines three other cases where the pathologist testified at hearings held to determine if a child should be taken from the parents.

In one instance, Dr. Smith's testimony was instrumental at a 1995 case involving the future of a newborn baby. The father had been convicted of manslaughter 10 years earlier in the death of another child, largely based on the pathologist's evidence, though other witnesses described him as being of a "gentle nature" and his wife insisted he was innocent. At the 1995 hearing, Dr. Smith reiterated his earlier testimony, and the newborn was removed from the parents' care.

The paper does not criticize the children's aid societies.

tblackwell@nationalpost.com

'For God's sake, Michael Bryant, do something' (2oo7)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

  • By: Kirk Makin
  • Organization: Globe & Mail

Under pressure, the Ontario government grants an inquiry into a pathologist's questionable findings - and how people were affected

Notwithstanding Mr. Bryant's elaborate expressions of regret for those who have been convicted on potentially erroneous evidence from pathologist Charles Smith, they said that the Attorney-General has done little to get to the bottom of the brewing scandal.

"Sherry [Sherrett] has been through an unbelievable experience in the past 11 years," her lawyer, James Lockyer, said at a Queen's Park press conference. "She spent a year in jail for something that didn't happen. She has lived for all these years with the aura of having killed her child. For God's sake, Michael Bryant, do something about it today."

Almost simultaneously, Mr. Bryant was delivering the government's third version in four days of its Dr. Smith battle plan - a "full public inquiry."

However, Mr. Lockyer asked reporters at the press conference to forgive him for taking a "jaundiced view" of the announcement, given Mr. Bryant's recent equivocations

Ms. Sherrett wept as she added her voice to the dispute yesterday, saying that she has waited far too long for justice.

"Last Thursday, the Attorney-General said that he will do everything in his power to right the wrongs," she said. "So far, his Crowns have flatly refused to right my wrong. How much longer does he think I should live with the past, with the shame of being wrongly accused of killing my child?"

Ms. Sherrett said that, unlike most other miscarriages of justice, there are multiple victims in the Smith affair.

"One day, I would like to see Dr. Charles Smith under oath, saying why he did what he did to people like myself - mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles," she said. "I no longer have to account for anything at all. But Dr. Smith does."

At Dr. Smith's house in Victoria, his partner, Bonnie Leaderbeater, answered the doorbell but turned a reporter away. Asked if Dr. Smith was in, Ms. Leadbeater said: "No he's not, and he doesn't take any calls or interviews."

At a 1995 autopsy, Dr. Smith found signs consistent with homicide on the body of four-month-old Joshua. As revealed in The Globe yesterday, the child's body was secretly exhumed last year and found to have no marks of violence after a re-examination by top pathologist Michael Pollanen.

Besides losing her baby, Joshua, Ms. Sherrett's eldest son was removed from her care and permanently placed with adoptive parents.

Ms. Sherrett said yesterday that being convicted of killing her baby caused her to be treated like a pariah. "From that day on, I became a baby killer," she said. "You hear about this for so long that you begin to doubt yourself. For the whole 11 years, being a baby killer followed me everywhere I went. It haunts me still to this day."

Ms. Sherrett said that she still tends Joshua's grave regularly. "I still water the flowers at his grave," she said. "I sit and talk to him, and I hope he hears me and knows that I love him and never stopped loving him. Only Joshua knows at this point that I never harmed him. ... "

Ms. Sherrett was sentenced to a year in jail after she agreed not to contest the Crown's case. The agreement meant she did not have to face the possibility of spending life in prison for murder.

"Imagine the pressure on these people," Mr. Lockyer remarked. "They were always being offered light sentences. In many ways, this is a bad remark on the plea bargaining system."

Mr. Lockyer said he found it "absolutely bewildering" that Mr. Bryant would not call a full inquiry last Thursday when he announced that 20 cases conducted by Dr. Smith are in doubt.

Last year, Ms. Sherrett had a baby daughter. "For 11 years, every day I woke up and said I want to be a mom one more time," she said. "I wanted people to see me for who I really am - a funny, caring, loving person. I hold my head high and say: I am a good mom."

For the first time, she said, it is possible to play with her daughter without being under observation. "I no longer have to have people with me at all times. ... All three of my children are part of my life today, even though two of them I can no longer see."

Woman convicted of infanticide wants name cleared (2oo7)

Date: Mon. Apr. 23 2007 7:12 PM ET

A mother convicted of killing her child based on erroneous testimony from former Toronto pathologist Charles Smith called on Ontario's attorney general Monday to act quickly to correct the situation.


"Last Thursday, the Attorney General (Michael Bryant) said that he'd do everything to right the wrongs," Sherry Sherrett said at a press conference.


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


Sherrett spent a year in prison for the death of her four-month-old son Joshua, convicted in 1999 largely on the basis of Smith's damning evidence.


Her conviction was one of 13 placed in doubt after a review of Smith's case by Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner.


As part of the review, Joshua Sherrett's tiny body was exhumed. The body was found to have no marks of violence.


What Smith took to be a skull fracture was apparently nothing more than a normal anatomical feature. Further, neck wounds that Smith testified were cause for "consternation,'' instead appear to have been caused by a scalpel used at the autopsy.


The review found it likely that Joshua died accidentally, perhaps when the comforter in his crib became bunched around his head.


"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,'' said an emotional Sherrett, wiping away tears as she spoke about Joshua's death.


Despite the new autopsy showing her son Joshua died of natural causes, Sherrett alleges that the Ontario government continues to block her efforts to appeal the conviction.


In 1999, the Crown noted that Sherrett may have "smothered" her child while suffering postpartum depression, and offered to drop the charge to infanticide. Although Sherrett says she was innocent, she chose to plead guilty rather than face a second-degree murder trial involving testimony from Smith -- considered at the time to be the continent's leading pediatric forensic pathologist.


In 2000, Sherrett's eldest child was later seized by authorities and adopted. Because of her conviction, Sherrett is forbidden to see her son until he is 18.


Lawyer James Lockyer, with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, also criticized Bryant for not acting to help Sherrett clear her name.


"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," he said at the press conference.


Lockyer said Bryant and his office have known about Sherrett's case as early as March 2006 but "have refused to do anything."


Public inquiry

A review of 43 of Smith's child autopsies found that he had made errors in 20.


Thirteen of those cases resulted in criminal convictions, and one person is still behind bars.


The Ontario government will hold a public inquiry into the matter, after former Ontario Superior Court chief justice Patrick LeSage completes an audit on how forensic pathology reports are handled, to prevent future problems.


The inquiry will have the power to subpoena witnesses into Smith's work.


Bryant said earlier that the government has found a senior judge to head the inquiry. The name of the commissioner and the terms of reference will be made public on Wednesday.


CTV's legal expert and defence attorney Steven Skurka says he welcomes an inquiry.


"The system broke down because the system relied on an expert coming and testifying, in good faith, with no checks or balances. That's the problem. Too much faith was put in this one expert," Skurka told Canada AM.


"And obviously, we have to learn lessons. We have to look to competing experts, other forensic pathologists and get their opinions.


"Expert witnesses play such an important role in criminal trials because it's really -- the jury doesn't understand it. They rely on that expert. That's why we need to have checks and balances to make sure when they testify they do so objectively and impartially."


http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070423/smith_sherrett_070423?s_name=&no_ads=

Ont. woman hopes for exoneration in child's death (2oo7)

Last Updated: Monday, April 23, 2007 | 5:38 AM ET

An Ontario woman says she has suffered "a mother's worst nightmare" and hopes to prove she was wrongly convicted of killing her four-month-old son now that the work of the child pathologist in the case has been thrown into doubt.

Sherry Sherrett was convicted of infanticide in 1999 after Dr. Charles Smith conducted the autopsy on her son Joshua.

Sherry Sherrett, at a news conference Monday, said she lost two children. \Sherry Sherrett, at a news conference Monday, said she lost two children. "One to death, and the other one to Dr. Smith's findings."
(CBC)

The case is one of 20 child autopsies that Ontario's chief coroner, Dr. Barry McLellan, flagged during a review of Smith's autopsies conducted between 1991 and 2002. Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant said Monday the province will hold a full public inquiry into Smith's work.

Sherrett told reporters Monday in Toronto that she hopes McLellan's findings in those cases will add weight to her efforts to clear her name.

Sherrett, now 32 and the mother of an 19-month-old daughter, recalled the pain of having her other son removed from her home in 1996 when she was charged with smothering Joshua with a pillow.

She hasn't seen her now 12-year-old son in years and won't be able to visit him until he is 18.

"I lost two children," Sherrett said. "One to death, and the other one to Dr. Smith's findings."

Sherrett found Joshua dead in his playpen on the morning of Jan. 23, 1996. At the preliminary hearing, Smith testified he found a skull fracture and microscopic hemorrhages on Joshua's neck.

Six months in jail

Sherrett pleaded not guilty to infanticide, but was convicted and spent six months behind bars.

As a result of her son's death, Sherrett said her marriage fell apart. She can't find work or travel to the U.S.

"People labelled me a baby killer," she said. "You don't lose that name. It stays with you."

In 2005, Sherrett fell in love and got pregnant. Shortly after giving birth, she asked a lawyer help her keep her daughter.

During Monday's press conference, she cited a recent Children's Aid Society report that declared she was not considered a risk to her youngest child.

"Those were magic words to my ears, to be able to play with my daughter without being watched.

"She's my life now, and people know I am a good mom."

Lawyer targets Bryant

James Lockyer, a director with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, asked Ontario's chief pathologist, Michael Pollanen, to review the case last year.

"Dr. Pollanen … came back with the opinion that the causes of death given by Dr. Charles Smith were wrong and her baby died of natural causes, likely as a consequence of the comforter in the crib," he said.

In his report, Pollanen also wrote Joshua never had a skull fracture and the neck injuries were actually caused by Smith during his taking of samples during the autopsy.

Smith, a one-time leading expert on pediatric forensics, was working at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children when the examinations took place.

A review of 45 autopsies conducted by Smith was launched nearly two years ago after several of the criminal cases he worked on collapsed.

Lockyer said he would use Pollanen's findings to support his application to overturn Sherrett's conviction and called on the attorney general to take immediate action on her case.

He noted he alerted the Ontario Criminal Conviction Review Committee about the case five months ago, but has not heard back.

"To this date, they have refused to do anything," Lockyer told reporters Monday.

Sherrett's lawyers learning to set their expectations low (2oo7)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

  • By: Kirk Makin
  • Organization: Globe & Mail
It would take just one favourable word from the Ministry of the Attorney-General for Sherry Sherrett to have her 1999 infanticide conviction speedily reviewed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

So far, however, the ministry has stood in her path.

At the heart of Ms. Sherrett's dilemma is a standard, 30-day appeal period during which a criminal defendant can lodge an appeal of his or her conviction. Since Ms. Sherrett's appeal period ended 30 days after her 1999 conviction, either the Crown has to agree to extend it or she will have to persuade the court itself to give her an extension.

Assembling the proper documentation for such an application will consume "months and months and months," James Lockyer, a lawyer for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, told a press conference yesterday.

"I had set my sights very low, indeed, and to no avail," he said. "Their consent would have speeded up the process considerably."

Smith’s apology ‘means nothing’ to Sherrett

Smith’s apology ‘means nothing’ to Sherrett

Posted By W. Brice McVicar — Osprey News Network

Posted 2 years ago


An apology from the doctor whose flawed medical findings put a former Trenton woman in prison for eight months — charged with murdering her own son — “means nothing” to the woman.

Sherry Sherrett told Osprey News Network she has not attended the inquiry into the findings of Dr. Charles Smith, a pathologist whose findings in 20 of the 45 child death cases he handled have recently been shown to have been based on poor medical science. One of those cases involved Sherrett’s four-month-old son Joshua who died on Jan. 23, 1996.

But, as expected, she’s been keenly following the proceedings.

At the inquiry in Toronto earlier this week Smith’s lawyer read an apology from the pathologist. In that statement Smith admitted he had “made a number of mistakes” and he was “truly sorry.”

For Sherrett, that apology rings hollow and bears no weight with her.

“It’d be different to say you’re sorry and get things back that you lost, but I won’t get anything back that I’ve lost,” Sherrett said.

Sitting in her small apartment off Dundas Street, Belleville, Sherrett explained how her life became a nightmare after her son’s death. Smith, in his findings, said the infant died of microscopic hemorrhages to the neck and a skull fracture. Later findings showed the boy had died of natural causes.

The child’s death set off a domino effect of destruction for Sherrett, however. Shortly after his death the Children’s Aid Society stepped in and — due to the believed circumstances of her child’s death — took her one-and-a-half-year-old son Austin from her.

Three years later, Sherrett found herself convicted of infanticide and sentenced to a year in prison on the strength of Smith’s findings.

The eight months she spent in jail were frightening for Sherrett who said she lived in fear for her life while housed at the Vanier Centre for Women in Brampton.

“I thought, basically, that my life was pretty much over because the code in jail was to kill the baby killer,” she said.

Simple trips to the cafeteria, the doctor or anywhere else at the jail required Sherrett be accompanied by a guard out of fear for her safety.

The final two months of her sentence were served at the Quinte Detention Centre and, upon release, Sherrett faced two years of probation. Entering normal life again forced Sherrett to examine her options but, more importantly, she worried about what would happen if she were to have another child.

“I really began to wonder what would happen if I became a mom again. I was wondering about who would be watching me and that sort of stuff.”

Life did eventually return to normal and, after becoming pregnant with her third child, Sherrett learned that the man whose words had caused her so much grief was under a microscope himself.

During her trial, there had been two doctors willing to testify against Smith’s findings and Sherrett needed the documents outlining their concerns because the CAS, on learning of her pregnancy, began to question her fitness as a mother. She placed a phone call to her lawyer hoping to secure those doctors’ names and documents when she was told Smith was being investigated.

“I went on the Internet and, sure enough, there it was: he was being investigated. I sat and I cried. It took me a couple of months to call the Association In Defence of Wrongfully Convicted because I was scared they wouldn’t believe me,” she said.

A meeting with the association resulted in Sherrett being represented by the group and that, she said, was the moment she felt her name may finally be cleared in her baby’s death.

Though Sherrett plans to be at the inquiry when Smith testifies, she has not been officially asked to appear. She said she just wants to be there to see Smith in person again.

“At this point I’d just like to see some type of justice come to him,” she said. “He needs to lose his licence. He needs to have a taste of what we’ve all had. It’s been hard up until the past couple of years. I’m living my life for my family.”

Sherrett’s son has since been adopted by another family and is now 13-years-old.

She receives pictures of him and letters from him occasionally, but has to wait until he turns 18 before she can see him.

And the pregnancy that came about when Sherrett learned Smith was under investigation? The bright-eyed two-year-old girl is her mother’s “angel.”

The CAS is now satisfied Sherrett is indeed competent and safe to raise the toddler.

“I almost lost her, too. Based on everything that happened before, we almost lost her. We went to the CAS on our own when I became pregnant and said we’d do whatever it took to keep her. We went through a parenting capacity assessment course, we took CPR, we did everything ... This is my chance to be a mom again.”

Article ID# 780311

For victims, Ontario pathology scandal lives on

Kirk Makin

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Saturday, Jul. 04, 2009 12:59AM EDT

Eight months after ending in a shower of praise and legislative reform, the inquiry into Ontario's forensic pathology scandal is a memory to all but the victims, who have yet to hear a whisper about compensation.

For many of the up to 20 individuals who were charged or convicted on erroneous evidence from disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, the pathology scandal remains very much alive.

“For a lot of people, it is never going to be over until they are compensated and the government has said that these people were wronged, and now we are compensating them,” said Louise Reynolds, who was wrongly jailed for two years for the murder of her daughter, Sharon, in 1977.

“I personally don't have any trust in government,” Ms. Reynolds said. “It's taking so long that I am concerned there is not going to be any compensation.”

Sherry Sherret-Robinson, who was convicted of killing her child in 1996, said she is “dumbfounded” by the delay. “We hear so many different things, and it affects our lives,” she said.

Ms. Sherret-Robinson, who is awaiting an Ontario Court of Appeal review of her conviction, defaulted on her student loans while she was fighting her murder charge. As a result, she said, she cannot get any more loans to resume her education.

“I have to sit here and try and make ends meet,” she said. “One thing I have learned: You can't trust the government on anything.”

In his 1,000-page report, Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge concluded that Dr. Smith was an arrogant, unqualified pathologist whose biased, inconsistent and unprofessional testimony precipitated a string of wrongful murder charges and convictions.

He also singled out the province for blame, saying that top officials in the Office of the Chief Coroner developed a “symbiotic relationship” with Dr. Smith that led them to shield him for years from the scrutiny he so desperately required.

Judge Goudge recommended that Ontario look into providing swift redress for people who, “through no fault of their own ... suffered tragic and devastating consequences.”

Ontario Attorney-General Chris Bentley raised the victims' hopes on Oct. 1, 2008, when he announced that a three-person committee headed by former associate chief justice of Ontario Coulter Osborne would recommend a fair compensation system, “as expeditiously as they can.”

Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney-General, said that the committee is still “considering the issues before providing their confidential legal advice to the minister.

“No deadline has been set, but they are being thorough in their review while treating the matter with urgency,” Mr. Crawley said in an interview. “After the minister receives the advice of the committee, he will make a decision on next steps.”

Peter Wardle, a lawyer who represents several of the victims, praised the province for speedily amending the forensic autopsy system. However, he said, “it shouldn't take that long for the government to at least take the first step toward dealing with the people whose tragedies gave rise to the calling of the inquiry in the first place.”

Maurice Gagnon, the father of another victim, Lianne Thibault, said that the province may think that, by delaying, “the public memory will be dimmed and they can get away with more.”

Mr. Gagnon, 71, said that he and his wife have waited 12 years to recoup at least some of the $237,000 in retirement savings that they plowed into defending their daughter.

“If they wait long enough, I'm going to die and I'll never be able to enjoy my retirement,” he said. “The delay becomes inordinate. Our plans have been irreparably altered because of this. And my daughter, too. Psychologically and emotionally, you never get over it.”

While Ms. Thibault, 35, was never charged, she lost custody of one of her children during a sustained police investigation precipitated by Dr. Smith's conclusion that her 11-month old, Nicholas, had died from a non-accidental bump to his head.

COST OF WRITING A WRONG

A sample of compensation payments made to the wrongly convicted, and the time they served:

Donald Marshall, 11 years for murder, $1.6-million;

Guy Paul Marin, 18 months for murder, $1.25-million;

David Milgaard, 23 years for murder, $10-million;

Michael McTaggert, 20 months for bank robbery, $380,000;

Thomas Sophonow, 45 months for murder, $2.6-million;

Steven Truscott, 10 years for murder, $6.5-million.

Ontario Acts On Goudge Recommendations

Ontario Acts On Goudge Recommendations

<<>>

TORONTO, Oct. 23, 2008 /CNW/ - NEWS

Ontario's death investigation system would be stronger, more accountable
and provide for greater oversight and transparency under proposed legislation
introduced by Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick
Bartolucci today. Highlights of the bill include a new oversight council,
complaints committee and a provincial forensic pathology service.
The proposed legislation addresses all the recommended legislative
amendments in the report of the Honourable Justice Stephen Goudge's Inquiry
into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario. This includes amendments to the
Coroners Act that would establish a framework to strengthen the death
investigation system in Ontario.

The new death investigation oversight council, made up of experts from
the medical, legal and government communities, would oversee the work of the
chief coroner and chief forensic pathologist to ensure the quality of the
system.

The Ontario Forensic Pathology Service recognizes the complex and
important role forensic pathology plays in death investigations. The new
service will centralize forensic pathology under the chief forensic
pathologist, ensuring consistent, high-quality standards for forensic
pathology across the province.

<<>>

QUOTES

"Commissioner Goudge gave us the roadmap to a stronger more accountable
death investigation system. This legislation takes us a long way down that
road. If passed, it would ensure we have the checks and balances in place to
prevent a similar tragedy in the future," said Community Safety and
Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci
(http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about_min/bio.html).

"This legislation would provide us the framework we need to truly
revitalize the system, and to help us build on the work we've already done to
earn back the trust of the people of Ontario," said Ontario's Chief Coroner
Dr. Andrew McCallum (http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=2e478d1bd6e0ea3).

"By recognizing the importance of a professional forensic pathology
service, this legislation would help us to take the next step towards
delivering the consistent high quality service the people of Ontario deserve,"
said Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Pollanen.

<<>>

LEARN MORE

Learn more about Ontario's coroners
(http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=7493768864254bc).

Read Justice Goudge's report and recommendations
(http://www.goudgeinquiry.ca/).

<< --------------------------
-----------------------------------------------
ontario.ca/safety-news
Disponible en fran├žais


BACKGROUNDER
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S DEATH INVESTIGATION SYSTEM
>>

Proposed new legislation would, if passed, amend the Coroners Act to
improve oversight, accountability and quality assurance within Ontario's death
investigation system. The proposed changes respond to recommendations made by
the Honourable Justice Stephen Goudge following his Inquiry into Pediatric
Forensic Pathology in Ontario.

Key changes under the new legislation would include:

ESTABLISHING EFFECTIVE OVERSIGHT

Proposed changes in the legislation would make it easier for the public
to understand how the death investigation system works and would make the
system itself more accessible, transparent and accountable.

A new death investigation oversight council would be created to oversee
the work of the chief coroner and the chief forensic pathologist. This is in
response to Commissioner Goudge's recommendations that an independent
oversight mechanism be established to oversee Ontario's death investigation
system. The council will ensure that the chief coroner and chief forensic
pathologist are held accountable for the quality of death investigations in
Ontario.

Ontario's Lieutenant Governor would appoint members of the oversight
council which would include representatives from the judicial, medical, and
government communities and as such would bring specialized expertise to advise
and oversee the chief coroner and chief forensic pathologist.

STRENGTHENING THE COMPLAINTS PROCESS

A new complaints committee would be established that would report to the
oversight council. The committee would track complaints made about the
handling of a particular death investigation or about the conduct of a coroner
or pathologist during an investigation.

In general terms, complaints concerning the medical roles of coroners and
pathologists would be directed to the College of Physicians and Surgeons,
while complaints related to the non-medical roles of coroners and pathologists
(e.g., providing evidence in criminal proceedings) would be directed to the
chief coroner and chief forensic pathologist respectively.

The committee would ensure the chief coroner and chief forensic
pathologist respond to complaints quickly and thoroughly. If a complainant is
not satisfied with the response provided by the chief coroner or the chief
forensic pathologist, the complaints committee has the authority to review the
complaint. The committee would also review any complaints against the chief
coroner and the chief forensic pathologist.

ENSURING HIGH-QUALITY FORENSIC PATHOLOGY SERVICES

In his report, Commissioner Goudge identified the vital role that
forensic pathology plays in Ontario's death investigation system. He made
several recommendations directed at improving the oversight of forensic
pathologists, defining their roles and ensuring quality within the system.
These recommendations are addressed in the proposed legislation.


Roles and Responsibilities

The chief forensic pathologist would be established in law as the head of
forensic pathology in the province. This would allow him or her to ensure the
quality and consistency of services being provided by forensic pathologists
across the province. Currently the chief forensic pathologist does not have
this legislated responsibility.


Forensic Pathology Service

A new Forensic Pathology Service would be created reporting to the chief
forensic pathologist. The new service would bring all of the province's
forensic pathology services under one umbrella to ensure consistency,
accountability and oversight. Currently, the province's forensic pathology
services are decentralized and run by regional forensic pathology units and
other hospital facilities where autopsies are performed.


Registry of Pathologists

A registry of pathologists authorized to perform post-mortem examinations
would be created and maintained by the chief forensic pathologist. This would
ensure that all pathologists providing services in Ontario are appropriately
qualified and experienced and have met the strict quality requirement set out
by the chief forensic pathologist.



MAKING ONTARIO SAFER

The chief coroner has a responsibility to protect public safety, and
needs to be given the clear authority to share information for this purpose.
Providing the chief coroner with authority to decide when it is appropriate to
share information to advance public safety will help coroners to protect the
public by preventing similar deaths. In such cases, the coroner would make
every effort to protect privacy by withholding identifying information where
possible.

The current legislation allows the coroner to release the results of
death investigations only to family members of the deceased, but does not
allow the coroner to release the results to other groups or to the public.
In some cases, the coroner has a need to share information when not doing
so would put the public at significant risk. For example, if widely used
medical equipment were faulty and caused a death, the public would need to be
informed.



ENSURING AN INDEPENDENT DEATH INVESTIGATION SYSTEM

The intent of the proposed legislation is to build a stronger death
investigation system based on the principles of professionalism and
accountability. Under such a system, it is the Office of the Chief Coroner who
has the expertise and experience needed to determine if an inquest should be
held. Decisions on inquests can undergo three levels of review within the
Office of the Chief Coroner: local investigating coroner; regional supervising
coroner; and the chief coroner.

If the minister made a decision contrary to the chief coroner's, it would
be inconsistent with the arm's-length relationship between the Office of the
Chief Coroner and government. For this reason, the proposed legislation would
remove the power of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
to call an inquest.

The chief coroner's decision regarding an inquest could still be the
subject of judicial review, if there was a desire to appeal his or her ruling.
Under this proposed change, by removing any potential for political
intervention, the final decision is based on science.



FOCUSING RESOURCES ON PUBLIC SAFETY

All deaths of adult inmates in correctional institutions are, and will
continue to be, thoroughly investigated by a coroner who is able to make
recommendations to prevent similar deaths. Currently, a coroner must hold an
inquest into all such deaths. Where the initial investigation determines that
a death in custody was by natural causes, the resulting inquest rarely
provides meaningful recommendations to improve public or inmate safety.
Under the new legislation, a death by natural causes in an adult
correctional facility would no longer be the subject of a mandatory inquest. A
coroner would still be able to call an inquest in such cases if he or she
believes an inquest will lead to improvements in public safety.
This change would allow coroners to focus on those complex cases where an
inquest could result in meaningful recommendations to make Ontario safer.



IMPROVING SERVICES TO NORTHERN, FIRST NATIONS AND REMOTE COMMUNITIES

All Ontarians deserve high-quality services and that includes death
investigations. In his report, Commissioner Goudge recognized that delivering
this service is challenging in some areas of the province. The current
shortage of doctors in northern, First Nations, and remote communities results
in long response times in the event of a death and sometimes coroners are
unable to attend a death scene at all.

As recommended by Commissioner Goudge, the new legislation would provide
for the appointment of individuals other than medical doctors or police
officers to perform coroner's duties. If passed, this amendment will give
coroners the flexibility to meet local needs and improve service to northern
and remote communities. However, the final decision as to whether or not an
inquest is required would continue to rest with the Office of the Chief
Coroner.



DEFINING THE PURPOSE OF DEATH INVESTIGATIONS

It is not always clear to the public what the purpose of a death
investigation is and this can cause confusion while the investigation is
underway. The proposed new legislation would establish in law for the first
time the reasons why a death investigation is undertaken.

<<>>

The results of an investigation are used to determine whether
recommendations are needed to prevent similar deaths or whether the death
requires the additional public scrutiny of an inquest.

An inquest is a public hearing held under the authority of the Coroners
Act for the purpose of presenting evidence to a jury of five members of the
community in which a person died. After hearing the evidence and other matters
relevant to the circumstances of the death, the jury must answer the above
five questions. They also may make recommendations based on evidence heard
that if implemented, might avoid deaths in similar circumstances.

The Goudge Report

Well everyone normally I post things for people to read. The report I will not be able to post. But I will be able to provide you with the link to the report to read.

The report is currently over a 1000 pages long.

http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/goudge/report/index.html

You can also find transcripts from the Goudge Report at:

http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/goudge/index.html


Report on child deaths out today (2oo8)

TheStar.com - Ontario - Report on child deaths out today

October 01, 2008

Theresa Boyle Staff Reporter

Wholesale changes to the way Ontario child deaths are medically investigated are expected to be recommended today by a commission probing serious flaws in the system that led to wrongful prosecutions of parents and caregivers.

The final report of the Public Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology, to be released at noon by Commissioner Stephen Goudge, will aim to ensure that no one in future will be charged, convicted or have their family pulled apart because of faulty pathology.

"I think it will (recommend) a major overhaul. It's way overdue," remarked Peter Wardle, a lawyer representing wronged individuals as a result of botched investigations into the deaths of Ontario children between 1991 and 2001.

The Canadian Press has learned the 1,000-page report contains harsh criticism of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith and his superiors, former chief coroner Dr. Jim Young and former deputy chief coroner Dr. Jim Cairns.

The inquiry was prompted by mistakes made by Smith in 20 child-death investigations. His errors included bungling autopsies, misdiagnosing causes of death, overstating his expertise and jumping to conclusions about family members based on their socio-economic status.

Wardle is anticipating a call for major changes to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario to ensure more checks and balances in child-death investigations. He wants to see a committee created that would be responsible for oversight of the coroner's office.

While the commission can't assign blame, it can point to critical failures in the system, noted Harold Levy, a lawyer and former Star reporter who is researching a book and writing a blog about the saga.

"Justice Goudge must provide us with his unfettered views on the actions or failures to act – of the institutions and people who were supposed to protect us," Levy said.

Kathryn Clarke, spokesperson for the regulatory College of Physicians and Surgeons, said Smith no longer has a licence to practise in Ontario. It expired in August and he didn't renew it. She said the college is still investigating allegations of professional misconduct by Smith.

Goudge is expected to address the use of expert witnesses in the criminal courts, in particular those from medical fields. Courts put too much stock in expert witnesses and give them too much free rein, the inquiry heard.

"My number-one choice is a requirement that a criminal charge can never be laid against a parent or caregiver (based solely on) the mere opinion of a pathologist," Levy said.

The recurring mistakes of Smith and others in the forensic pathology system led to some parents and caregivers spending months, even years, behind bars, and having surviving children removed from their custody, sometimes permanently. Families spent life savings trying to defend themselves.

TheStar.com - Ontario - Payout urged in Smith probe

TheStar.com - Ontario - Payout urged in Smith probe

October 01, 2008
Theresa Boyle Tracey Tyler
Staff Reporters

People unjustly convicted through the work of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith deserve compensation, the final report of the Public Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario concludes.

The four-volume report released today by Justice Stephen Goudge also calls on the province to review additional cases of child deaths that may have resulted in wrongful convictions.

The report lists 169 recommendations to restore the public confidence in a system that saw innocent family members and caregivers wrongly convicted, charged or suspected in the deaths of children.

"My recommendations are the steps that I have concluded must be taken to restore and enhance public confidence in pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario, and its future use in the criminal justice system," Goudge said.

"If acted upon, they represent the best way to protect the administration of justice from flawed pathology, to leave behind the dark times of the recent past, and to create the forensic pathology service that the criminal justice system needs and the people of Ontario deserve.

"It is important that there be improvements in the way forensic pathology is practiced in individual cases in Ontario. . . At autopsy, the forensic pathologist should `think truth' rather than `think dirty.'

"To do so requires an independent and evidence-based approach that emphasizes the importance of thinking objectively. The pathology evidence must be observed accurately and must be followed wherever it leads, even if that is to an undetermined outcome."

While it's harshly critical of Smith, whose litany of mistakes sparked the inquiry, it's particularly critical of his bosses, who failed to rein him in. Ontario's former chief coroner, Dr. James Young, has been singled out for failing to heed years of warnings about Smith.

The inquiry, which ran over five months beginning last November, was prompted by mistakes made by Smith in 20 child-death investigations.

His errors included bungling autopsies, misdiagnosing causes of death, overstating his expertise and jumping to conclusions about family members based on their socio-economic status.

"When the pathology is flawed, or there is a failure of the oversight required to ensure its quality, the consequences are devastating," Goudge said. "Sadly, in the years I examined, both occurred in Ontario.

"For more than a decade, Dr. Charles Smith was viewed as one of Canada's leading experts in pediatric forensic pathology, and the leading expert in Ontario. Yet he had little forensic expertise, and his training was, as he himself described, 'woefully in adequate.'

"He achieved the status of a leading expert in the field in large part because there was no one who had the training, experience, and expertise to take him on. He worked ... too much in isolation.

"The situation was prolonged because there was then, as there is now, a severe shortage of forensic pathologists in Ontario and even fewer with the knowledge and experience to do pediatric forensic cases or to provide the culture of peer review on which quality depends.

"The serious mistakes he made, with the terribly unfortunate consequences that resulted, were on clear display at the inquiry.

"But the tragic story of pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario from 1981 to 2001 is not just the story of Dr. Smith. It is equally the story of failed oversight. The oversight and accountability mechanisms that existed were not only inadequate to the task, but were inadequately employed by those responsible for using them.

"The challenge ahead is to correct the failings that permitted these things to happen. We must do all that we can to ensure that, so far as possible, this history is not repeated.

"This is the objective of the 169 recommendations I have made."

While Goudge didn't have the mandate to order compensation, he did nudge the province to do so, something that many victims and their lawyers had desperately hoped he would do.

"I urge the Province of Ontario to see if ... a viable compensation process can be set up," he wrote.

The commissioner noted that many individuals became "entangled in the criminal justice system simply because of flawed pediatric forensic pathology and through no fault of their own."

Indeed, William-Mullins Johnson, of Sault Ste. Marie, was wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of his four-year-old niece, crimes for which he spent 12 years in jail.

Sherry Sherret, of Belleville was convicted of infanticide in the death of her 4-month-old son, largely based on Smith's evidence. She spent a year in jail and lost permanent custody of an older son.

Other families spent their life savings trying to defend their loved ones.

"I think the report has far reaching implications, not just for the future of pediatric forensic pathology in this case, but for the criminal justice system as whole," said James Lockyer, a lawyer representing Mullins-Johnson and eight other families.

"We all have a lot to learn from the report.

"I'm obviously pleased there's a recommendation for a review of shaken baby syndrome cases," Lockyer added.
Like so many today, Mullins-Johnson described Goudge’s report as “a start.” But by Mullins-Johnson’s definition, real accountability will only come if the Crown attorney’s office reviews the conduct of Smith and his two former superiors in the Ontario coroner’s office — Young and former Deputy Chief Coroner Dr. Jim Cairns — with a view to laying criminal charges.

Mullins-Johnson said he wants to see all three men prosecuted criminally for obstruction of justice.

They fabricated a crime that never took place — one he paid for with 12 years of his life, he told reporters.

“They invented a crime here,” he added in an interview with The Star. “They just basically took it out of the air and said, ‘Let’s get him.’”

Goudge’s report provides “tough answers to what were tough questions,” said Julian Falconer, a lawyer representing Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.

“It was, quite frankly, painfully obvious to everyone at the start of this inquiry the incompetencies exhibited by Dr. Smith. The question really was, how could it have been allowed to go on so long.”

The answers pointed to the man at the top of the coroner’s system, who was too busy in other high-profile government jobs to keep tabs on what Smith was doing, Falconer said.

Goudge’s report concludes “the Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Young, misled the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2002 with respect to Dr. Smith,” said Falconer. “It points out that Dr. Young was unable to fulfill the oversight role of the Chief Coroner because he accepted ore senior oversight positions, taking him elsewhere.”

“He (Goudge) identified a complete failure of oversight on the part of the Ontario coroner’s office,” said Frank Addario, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association.

“We see this as step one.”

“Step two is the government’s response. They need to step up to the plate as quickly as possible and build some confidence back into the system,” he said.

Exactly ten years ago, the public learned, during the inquiry into the Guy Paul Morin’s wrongful 1992 murder conviction, that “the forensic science system in Ontario has flaws,” Addario noted. “We’ve learned it again during this inquiry.”

In addition to insisting on standards of excellence generally through the system, Addario suggested it may also be time to insist that judges be required to undertake some training in basic sciences and scientific principles if they’re going to preside at homicide trials.

In urging the province to review old cases of child deaths, Goudge noted that science has evolved and some deaths once deemed criminally suspicious would now be attributed to natural causes.

"The significant evolution in pediatric forensic pathology relating to shaken baby syndrome and pediatric head injuries warrants a review of certain past cases because of the concern, in light of the change in knowledge, there may have been convictions that should now be seen as miscarriages of justice," he said.

In taking aim at Young, Goudge said as former chief coroner, the buck stopped with him.

"In the end, as Chief Coroner, Dr. Young must bear the ultimate responsibility for the failure of oversight," he wrote.

Of the report's 169 recommendations to restore public confidence in the system, 23 focus on improving oversight and accountability, including the creation of a governing council to ensure more objective and independent governance of the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario.

Goudge was also critical of Cairns, noting that those in the senior ranks of the Office of the Chief Coroner ignored warning signs about Smith for more than a decade.

"Because of their positions, (Young and Cairns) clearly had authority over Dr. Smith in his role as director of the (Ontario Pediatric Forensic Pathology Unit) and in his work on individual cases had they chosen to exercise it. Ultimately they could have removed him from both functions. Unfortunately, this authority was never translated into effective oversight," the report states.

Commenting on Smith's rise through the ranks despite a lack of training, Goudge called for higher standards in the profession of forensic pathology

"For more than a decade, Dr. Smith was viewed as one of Canada's leading experts in pediatric forensic pathology and the leading expert in Ontario. Yet he had little forensic expertise and his training, as he himself described was `woefully inadequate,' " he wrote.

Goudge said the profession of forensic pathology needs to be beefed up with better education, more recruitment and more funding to grow the field. He also called for an amendment to the Coroner's Act to formally recognize the role of forensic pathologists and define their duties.

Key recommendations

Justice Stephen Goudge makes 169 recommendations to improve Ontario's pediatric forensic pathology system. They include:

- Further review of other child deaths to determine if any resulted in potentially wrongful convictions — particularly cases that involved shaken baby syndrome or pediatric head injuries — given significant advances in the past two decades in what pathology knows about these cases.

- During autopsies, forensic pathologists should stop thinking "dirty" — approaching cases with a high level of suspicion, as preached by Smith and his superiors — and start thinking "truth."

- The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada approve year-long programs in Canadian medical schools to train and certify doctors as forensic pathologists. (Smith had no formal training in forensic pathology, which has largely been the norm for Canadians doctors practicing in this field).

- Amending Ontario's Coroners Act to ensure the work of forensic pathologists is supervised, including the creation of a Governing Council to oversee the duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Chief Coroner.

- "Significant" increase in legal aid funding for serious criminal cases involving pediatric forensic pathology to ensure parents defended by skilled and experienced lawyers.

- Ontario hospitals should create policies for mandatory reporting of any serious concerns about the work of any hospital pathologist who performs autopsies under a coroner's warrant. Ontario's coroner's office should create similar policies.

- Forensic pathologists must ensure their work at autopsies is "transparent" and independently reviewable, which means preserving any information received before an autopsy, what they did during an autopsy and any evidence collected. (Smith lost, misplaced and withheld evidence).

- In their reports and testimony, forensic pathologists must ensure their opinion addresses other explanations for what they found during a post-mortem.

- The Ontario government should investigate whether a "viable" process can be set up to compensate affected families. (Goudge's mandate precluded him from making recommendations about individual compensation.)

- Trial judges must function as "gatekeepers" in cases involving "expert" scientific evidence — assessing, before that witness testifies, the reliability of their field of science and the reliability of their opinion, among other things.