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Two Down, Ten Thousand to Go
October 25, 2008 permalink
Two women convicted of homicide in the deaths of their own children have been granted leave to appeal, even beyond legal time limits, because their convictions resulted from evidence by the now-discredited Dr Charles Smith.
In family destruction cases, parents criminally charged are the lucky ones — they will get a chance to present their side in court. Not so for those subject to non-criminal protection actions. They cannot speak to the court, and they have no practical means of appeal. Ontario's children's aid societies still keep eighteen thousand children away from their parents.
Appeals to be heard next year for women convicted on disgraced pathologist's work
TORONTO — Two Ontario mothers haunted by homicide convictions in the deaths of their babies will likely see their cases go before the province's highest court next year, their lawyer said Friday.
The appeals of the convictions were to be filed Friday after Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Marc Rosenberg agreed that a time extension, despite the convictions being registered in the 1990s, was "unique" and "proper" in the cases.
An order keeping the women's identities from being made public was also granted, Lockyer said.
"Probably the next move is for the Attorney General's office to assess their position on the cases," said Lockyer, who expects that to happen within the next three months, with the appeals likely to be heard in 2009.
In affidavits filed with the court, the women said that they felt compelled to plead guilty to homicide after disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith implicated them in the deaths.
Both women are among more than a dozen people convicted or charged based, in part, on Smith's findings.
Those findings were the subject of a recent inquiry headed by Justice Stephen Goudge, who slammed Smith, along with Ontario's former chief coroner and his deputy, for their roles in several wrongful prosecutions.
One of the Ontario woman, who was 18 at the time she gave birth, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1998, and received a conditional sentence and three years probation.
The other was 21 when her baby was born in 1992 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter two year later after she was originally charged with second-degree murder. She received a suspended sentence and three years probation.
In both cases, experts who reviewed Dr. Smith's work questioned his findings of asphyxia as the causes of death. They said there was little evidence to back his findings, especially with other credible possibilities, such as lack of oxygen in the birth canal.
In one of the cases, it was found Smith didn't even examine the body of the dead baby, which at some point had the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck.
Both women gave birth in the bathrooms of their parents' homes, and said they didn't know in advance they were pregnant.
In the younger woman's case, police charged her after an investigation lasting more than a year, alleging she'd killed the infant and placed its remains in a plastic bag in a closet. In the other case, the newborn's remains were found in a toilet.
In their affidavits, both women said they don't remember placing their babies in those respective locations.
They pleaded that the court keep their identities from being published, fearing their reputations and prospects for work could be harmed.
Source: Canadian Press, Hosted by Google