Thursday, January 30, 2014

Judges as gatekeepers: Follow up on yesterday's post in which Phil Locke of the Wrongful Convictions Blog wrote about how inept scientifically illiterate lawyers can be when dealing with expert evidence; Former Superior Court of Ontario Chief Judge Patrick Lesage examined the judge's role as gatekeeper over expert testimony in his testimony at the Goudge inquiry into many of former doctor Charles Smith's cases - and offered some fascinating personal insights. (Must Read story by Globe and Mail Justice Reporter Kirk Makin. HL);)

STORY: "Judges allow expert witnesses too much latitude, Inquiry told," by Justice Reporter Kirk Makin, published by the Globe and Mail on March 13, 2009.

GIST:  "Judges have done a poor job of preventing expert witnesses from testifying in areas where they lack expertise, a widely respected former judge told the Goudge Commission yesterday. "I think that we get drawn into it, thinking: 'Oh, well, of course, she is a medical doctor, or a pathologist, or a pediatric pathologist - so, of course, we'll receive their opinion," said Patrick LeSage, former chief justice of the Superior Court of Ontario. In testimony that had a distinctly confessional ring, Mr. LeSage chastised himself for rejecting only a half-dozen experts in his 29 years as a trial judge. Even when his instincts had militated against allowing a particular expert to testify, Mr. LeSage said that he was loath to toss out that person's testimony.........As part of a probe into autopsy errors by pediatric pathologist Charles Smith that precipitated wrongful charges and convictions, Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge is focusing on the role of experts in the court system. Mr. LeSage testified yesterday that, two years ago, while he was presiding over an inquiry into the wrongful conviction of a Manitoba man, James Driskell, he was struck by statements he heard from a panel of scientific experts. "I must say, it came as somewhat a shock to me, having spent 40 years in the justice system, to hear some of the scientific experts speak of the uncertainty and lack of clarity in areas of science that I had always thought of as much more certain than they really are," Mr. LeSage said yesterday. "I felt very guilty that I had not better educated myself on these areas long before."......... U.S. law professor Erica Beecher-Monas said that a pathologist can safely testify about what sort of pediatric head injuries are usually not accidental. However, pathologists should not be allowed to give their opinion about how their information applies to the case being tried, she said. "What's not happening is that the forensic pathologist is not explaining that there is an alternative explanation that would account for all these symptoms also," she said."

The entire story can be found at:


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

I look forward to hearing from readers at: