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Review for Dr Smith's Victims

November 1, 2005 permalink

Child abuse is not as pervasive as you have been told. From the Toronto Star:



Nov. 1, 2005. 02:52 PM

Child killer cases first under review

Dr. Charles Smith faces scrutiny Notorious Dooley case among them


Cases in which people are serving life terms for the murder of a child will be among the first of 40 to be reviewed by independent forensic specialists examining the work of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith, the Star has learned.

The cases were identified at a news conference this morning by Dr. Barry McLellan, Ontario's chief coroner.

The unprecedented review announced in June encompasses all suspicious child-death cases in which Smith conducted autopsies or provided an opinion since 1991, while working at the province's Forensic Pediatric Pathology Unit.

Three priority cases, evidently chosen because of their impact on the people convicted, include the notorious death of 7-year-old Randal Dooley.

McLellan decided to order the review after Smith misplaced forensic exhibits that a Sault Ste. Marie man, William Mullins-Johnson, needed to prove that he did not sexually assault and murder his 4-year-old niece Valin, as Smith had concluded.

McLellan's officials found the samples on Smith's desk at the Hospital for Sick Children. After tests, two independent experts concluded that Valin had died of natural causes. Mullins-Johnson was freed on bail this September, after nearly 13 years behind bars.

As expected, his case will reviewed by members of the expert panel, whose names will be released today, along with other widely reported cases in which Smith played a role.

Besides Mullins-Johnson, the three cases involving convicted murderers focus on:

  • Tony and Marcia Dooley, who were found guilty of second-degree murder in the 1998 beating death of their 7-year-old son Randal, who had been found to have 13 broken ribs, a lacerated liver and four brain injuries. Smith performed the autopsy. Both have appeals pending in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
  • Marco Trotta, who was convicted of the second-degree murder of his 8-month-old son Paulo — in spite of the autopsy finding by another pathologist that he had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — after Smith gave his opinion that the death was not accidental. Trotta was recently granted leave to appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Tammy Marie Marquardt, who is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murder of her 2 1/2-year-old son Kenneth Wynne in a case where Smith concluded the child was probably suffocated. She has asked the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted to take on her case.

Over the past week, McLellan and his staff have been contacting families involved in other high-profile cases through their lawyers so they would know the cases were being reopened before that information was made public this morning. Kingston lawyer Felicity Hawthorn was told one such case involved Louise Reynolds, whom she represented in criminal proceedings.

Reynolds was accused in 1997 of killing her 7-year-old daughter, on the basis of an opinion provided by Smith. The charge was dropped after experts concluded the fatal wounds were caused by dog bites.

The case has occasionally been compared to the Australian dingo case — the subject of a Meryl Streep movie called A Cry in The Dark — in which a woman was convicted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter but was released and pardoned after evidence proved the girl had been snatched from the family tent by a wild dog.

Reynolds spent two years in pre-trial custody, plus time in a halfway house, and was forced to put up another daughter for adoption before prosecutors withdrew the charge in 2001.

The Star has confirmed from other lawyers and relatives that the following cases will also be included in the review:

  • Brenda Waudby: Charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter Jenna in Peterborough, after Smith came up with a timeframe in which she could have been present when the injuries were inflicted. She was freed after experts concluded she could not have been present at the time.
  • Lianne Thibeault: Investigated by Sudbury police for manslaughter in the death of her 11-month-old son, after Smith determined the death was not accidental. She was cleared after much personal distress, when an independent expert in child-abuse deaths disagreed with Smith's opinion.

Smith was formally cautioned by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2002 after a panel of experts that had studied his work in three suspicious-death cases (including Waudby and Thibeault) reported that they were "extremely disturbed by the deficiencies in his approach."

He resigned from the Hospital for Sick Children shortly after McLellan announced his review and is now employed at City Hospital in Saskatoon, pending the local health authorities' review of his one-year contract.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

McLellan is expected to announce this morning whether the review will be confined to a review of pathology evidence, such as microscopic slides and tissue samples, or if the experts will also be permitted to review trial transcripts to assess Smith's conduct.

Source: Toronto Star