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Mom Did Not Kill Baby

September 30, 2008 permalink

A mother has been released after spending seven months in jail for killing her own baby. There was no evidence for a crime, not even from the autopsy. The case was based entirely on the way the mother reacted to police when questioned. She did not speak English and had been in Canada for less than two years.

This seems to be the same case we reported on in February, though the spelling of the mother's name differs. At least children's aid did not take the rest of the family's children away from their father.

In a normal world, no one should write the headline: Mom did not kill baby. In the aftermath of the Dr Charles Smith fiasco, with every crib death treated as a homicide, it is sadly necessary. The Goudge report on Dr Charles Smith is due tomorrow.



Charges dropped in baby's death - GTA - Charges dropped in baby's death

Xiu Zheng's arrest based on her reaction after death, court told

A 39-year-old Toronto woman who was accused of killing her infant daughter walked free yesterday after a court was told the charge was based on apparently nothing more than her own physical reactions in the aftermath of the child's death.

Accompanied by family members, Xiu Zheng left the Old City Hall courthouse quickly and quietly after a charge of second-degree murder, laid by Toronto police last February, was withdrawn.

Coincidentally, the development came on the eve of a major report from an inquiry into Ontario's pediatric pathology system, an investigation called after several other parents were wrongly accused – and in some cases convicted – of killing their infant children.

That report is to be released tomorrow.

Zheng's case was not among those considered by the inquiry, headed by Justice Stephen Goudge of the Ontario Court of Appeal. But her lawyer, James Lockyer, is optimistic Goudge's report will usher in sweeping reforms.

Much of her ordeal – which included five months in a segregation cell at a Milton jail – could have been avoided if police had waited two days for an autopsy to be performed, instead of charging her after an interview conducted in the hours after 40-day-old Xin Lei was found dead, he said.

"Police jumped the gun," Lockyer said in an interview outside court yesterday.

Arrested shortly after her daughter was pronounced dead by paramedics on Feb. 23, Zheng – who came to Canada in 2006 and speaks no English – was "essentially catatonic," unclear on what was happening and unaware of her rights, Lockyer said.

During the interview, she stared at the floor, mumbling "mmmm" and nodding her head in response to virtually anything posed to her by officers, which included suggestions as to how her daughter might have died, all of which amounted to "homicide," he said.

Assistant Crown attorney Jill Witkin told Justice Paul Bentley that Zheng's videotaped statement would likely be ruled inadmissible because of her condition at the time of the interview.

Two days after she was questioned, Dr. David Chiasson, the director of pediatric forensic pathology at the Hospital for Sick Children, concluded an autopsy did not reveal a cause of death. Toxicology tests also provided no answers.

Zheng came to Canada in 2006 with two other daughters, ages 4 and 10. Her husband, Li Huang, had arrived earlier.

On the day his youngest daughter died, Huang left the family's home on Manning Ave., near Bathurst and Queen Sts., around 7:30 a.m. to look for work. When he returned home some 12 hours later, the baby appeared to be asleep in bed, with a pillow under her head and a quilt rolled up to her chest, the court was told.

But Zheng was pacing back and forth.

Later that night, Huang's sister and landlord came downstairs to see little Xin Lei, telling her brother the child looked pale. He called paramedics after discovering she was cold and wouldn't wake up.

Witkin said the Crown concluded there was no reasonable prospect of conviction after reviewing Chiasson's report in May.

Source: Toronto Star