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Justice Theater

September 17, 2011 permalink

Lily Choy has been found guilty again in the death of her foster child in 2007. It took three years to find out her name, the name of her dead ward is still a state secret. Following an enclosed news story is an editorial suggesting this kind of trial is just theater, a substitute for real child care. Deflecting the blame to the hapless Lily Choy ensures that the bureaucrats who operate the dysfunctional system in which deaths are inevitable will not be held to account. Ontario has topped Alberta in this area. After the death of Matthew Reid in a Welland foster home, a mentally defective teenaged girl was convicted of murder. [1] [2]. Quite possibly, the girl could not understand what was happening to her, and with her name secret, there is no way for the public to know what if anything about her life changed in consequence of the conviction.



Foster mom guilty in death of boy

Lily Choy
Lily Choy.
(Police photo)

EDMONTON - Edmonton nurse Lily Choy has been found guilty of manslaughter for causing a three-year-old boy who was a foster child in her care to suffer a deadly brain injury.

It is the second time the 37-year-old foster mom was convicted of manslaughter in the 2007 death as a result of the Court of Appeal of Alberta ordering a new trial.

In a three-hour decision delivered Wednesday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Donna Read ruled Choy had “caused the death” by assaulting the boy, but said she had a reasonable doubt over whether she intended it.

As a result - despite her “grave suspicions” - Read found Choy not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

Following the decision, the boy's father and aunt angrily stormed out of the courtroom, and there were loud expressions of disbelief by people in the public gallery.

City homicide Det. Bill Clark, who interviewed Choy after the death, said he was “very surprised” by the ruling.

“In my opinion, this is a woman without remorse,” Clark said outside the downtown Law Courts building.

“It was a vicious attack on a three-year-old boy.”

Choy hugged her supporters after the decision and was expected to walk out of the courtroom after being granted bail pending her Oct. 17 sentencing hearing.

However, court sheriffs took her into the cells adjoining the courtroom to speak to her lawyer and then escorted her to an unknown area so she could leave the building.

Clark took exception to that and criticized one of the sheriffs for giving Choy “special treatment.”

During the trial, which began April 4, court heard police were called to Choy's west-end home Jan. 26, 2007, after the boy was taken to Stollery Children's Hospital suffering from serious head trauma. He died in hospital the next day as a result of a fatal brain injury, which was later determined to be caused by blunt force trauma.

Choy testified in her own defence the boy had been “frantic” and “screaming,” and she had carried him to a downstairs bathroom where she said he had hit his head on the toilet after she fell over as a result of him hitting her.

Read rejected Choy's evidence, calling it “incredible” and saying she did not believe her.

The judge also rejected the defence expert witnesses while accepting the Crown's medical evidence that the boy had suffered a deadly brain injury as a result of “abusive head trauma” involving “severe force.”

As well, Read ruled that she accepted that Choy had spanked the boy, causing bruising on his buttocks, she had forced him to walk up and down stairs late at night for exercise, and had placed him in a frigid garage in only his diaper as punishment for wetting the bed.

In 2008, a jury convicted Choy of manslaughter after a five-week trial and three days of deliberations. She was sentenced to three years in prison.

But she was granted bail two months into her sentence pending cross appeals by both the Crown and defence.

A new trial was ordered last year after a three-judge panel ruled the trial judge had erred in the way he urged the deadlocked jury in the case to reach a verdict.

Source: Toronto Sun

Simons: Jailing foster parents who kill only provides illusion of justice

System that put boy and three other high-needs children in Lily Choy’s care must bear much of the responsibility

EDMONTON - Lily Choy probably didn’t set out to be a killer.

Of that, at least, I’m pretty sure.

In late 2006, when she first became a foster parent, she was a single mom of 32, raising two young children. She was also a registered nurse.

Back then, the province was experiencing a particularly dire shortage of foster homes.

Between 2005 and 2007, at the height of the boom, the Edmonton region experienced a nine-per-cent increase in children in care — and a 15-per-cent drop in the number of regional foster homes. The problem was so severe that children in care were routinely being housed in cheap motels in industrial areas on the edge of the city, or placed in foster homes that were already well over their regulated capacity.

And so, at a time when the region was desperate to recruit new foster parents, Lily Choy signed up.

As a rookie, Choy was only supposed to be caring for two foster children at a time. Instead, within weeks of becoming a foster parent, Choy found her home “overloaded” — to use the official provincial term. At one point, she had four high-needs foster children, who ranged in aged from toddlers to young teens, in addition to her own kids, who were then eight and three.

One of the youngsters placed in her care was a three-year-old aboriginal boy, who, according the medical evidence, suffered from serious neurological problems likely caused by fetal alcohol syndrome. He wasn’t yet toilet trained, and reportedly resisted efforts to make him use the toilet. According to some witnesses, he had behavioural problems, including frequent tantrums.

In other words, he might have been an extremely challenging and emotionally exhausting child to look after, even for an experienced foster parent working one-on-one. For a brand new foster parent, who was caring, at the time, for five children? The placement was disastrous.

At two in the morning, on January 27, 2007, the boy, who cannot be named under the terms of the province’s Orwellian Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, suffered a fatal blow to the head.

In 2009, an Edmonton jury found Choy guilty of manslaughter. She was sentenced to three years in jail. Both the Crown and the defence appealed, and Choy was granted a new trial, this time, before a judge alone. This week, Madame Justice Donna Read found her guilty of manslaughter.

Although the defence argued, at both trials, that the boy’s injuries were self-inflicted, Read found that the severity of the child’s brain damage, and the serious bruising all over his body, were more consistent with abuse. Although Read said she had “grave suspicions” about Choy’s conduct, she found there was not enough evidence of intent to kill find her guilty of second-degree murder.

Choy is to be sentenced Oct. 15. Unless there’s another appeal, her long journey to justice is almost over.

But while I don’t want to minimize or excuse Lily Choy’s terrible actions, she is not the only one to blame for the death of this child.

Our child care system determined, first, that Choy was a fit, responsible person to foster high-needs children, at least one of whom was developmentally disabled.

Next, it overloaded and overwhelmed her, with more hard-to-handle kids than almost anyone could manage.

Now, a little boy is dead. And Choy’s life, and her own family, have been shattered.

Because the court process has taken so long, there has not yet been a public fatality inquiry. The province has conducted an internal special case review, but the results have never been made public, and likely never will be. The department of Children and Youth Services has never been held accountable for breaking its own rules and putting in motion the chain of circumstances that led to this tragedy.

If this were an isolated case, it might be different. But between 2005 and 2010, four foster children from the Edmonton region, all of them aboriginal, were allegedly killed by their government-approved and appointed foster parents. Four foster child homicides in five years? You’d think there might be public outrage — but because we can’t ever name the children, or print their pictures, it’s hard to make those deaths resonate.

In 2008, in response to the Choy affair, the province did bring in new tougher rules about approving new foster homes, and about when homes are allowed to exceed their usual number of residents. And just last month, Children’s Services minister Yvonne Fritz committed to setting up an independent Council for Quality Assurance, parallel to the Health Quality Assurance Council, to investigate deaths or serious injuries of children within the child welfare system.

But we’re still not asking tough questions about whether our venerable system of voluntary foster parents, paid only a simple honorarium, still works in 2011. We’re not asking whether our decentralized child welfare system, which contracts out care to not-for-profit agencies, works well. We’re not addressing the hardest questions of all — about why 65 per cent of the children in care in the Edmonton region are aboriginal, and why so many of them end up dead.

Jailing foster parents who kill after the fact might give us an illusion of justice. But until we’re ready to have a serious conversation about making our child welfare system work, there will be no justice for the most vulnerable kids in our province’s care.

Source: Edmonton Journal