Almost ten years ago, Justice Stephen Goudge released his report on his Inquiry into many of former doctor Charles Smith’s cases.
During this time, I have been hoping that a seasoned journalist would write a definitive book on Smith and the impact he had on his victims, their families and Ontario’s criminal justice system.
Fortunately, that challenge has been taken on by CBC producer John Chipman, author of “Death in the Family” published earlier this month by Penguin/Random House.
Having devoted several years to the research and writing of this book, Chipman demonstrates an ability to approach his task dispassionately while leaving the reader in no doubt about the outrageous betrayal of Smith’s victims by the institutions that were supposed to protect them.
The list includes the crusading “think dirty’ Chief Coroner’s Office, the zealous Hospital for Sick Children (Smith’s employer), The College of Physicians and Surgeons (his oh-so-weak regulator), incompetent police officers, prosecutors who paraded Smith before the courts as if he were a forensic ‘God’, heavy-handed children’s aid societies, and those media who chose to glorify Smith and help him transform himself from a nonentity to the celebrated Dr. Charles Randal Smith.
While working on the Smith story for almost 15 years, I did my best to channel the simmering anger I felt at seeing so many grieving parents and caregivers turned into child killers as Smith manufactured murder where none existed.
But as Chipman drew me deeper and deeper into the lives of people affected - like Bill Mulllins-Johnson, Lianne Thibeault, Tammy Marquardt, Brenda Waudby, the baby sitter in Timmins, Anthony Kporwodu and Angela Veno – I found my simmering anger turning into near rage. (This is the first book I have read in years that proved capable of moving me so profoundly).
I challenge anyone not to feel the same seering emotions when reading one of the chapter in which Tammy Marquardt (an innocent woman whose son died of disease) arrives, as a convicted child murderer (thanks to Charles Smith), at the maximum-security Prison for Women.
“After intake , the new inmates were taken to see the OIC, or the officer-in-charge. His name was Barry McGuinness, and he had some words of advice for Tammy. “If you want that child to live,” he said, pointing to her stomach, “you don’t tell anyone what you’re in here for.”
It had never occurred to Tammy that none of the other inmates would know what she was in for. She asked McGuinness what she should say if people asked.
“Tell them you killed your husband,” he said.
It was good advice, crucial advice; advice he didn’t have to give her. She was never sure whether he told her for her baby’s sake, for her own safety or to save himself the trouble of dealing with the aftermath if an inmate tried to beat her to death.”
Also riveting is Chipman’s account of Marquardt’s first meeting with one of P4W’s most famous inmates at the time.
“Hi, I’m Karla,” a bubbly Homolka said outside Tammy’s cell. “If you need anything, just holler up and I’ll get it for you .”
Tammy only nodded. She couldn’t bring herself to respond.”
After finishing my read of ‘Death in the family,’ I was struck by how much I had learned - and how much more I understood - even though I had been researching and writing about Smith for more than 15 years.
Indeed, ‘Death in the Family’ contains a revelation, that took me totally by surprise, in which Chipman, using his investigative talents, provides a credible non-criminal explanation of a baby’s death, which may have eluded death investigators, police, prosecutors, the parents themselves – and even their lawyers.
This is breath-taking.
It’s Canadian journalism at its best.
A review of a 400-page book can scarcely do justice to its subject matter – especially when each one of the cases discussed could have been a book in itself.
One of the questions most asked about Smith, is how a man who purported be a good Christian and to love the little children, could have lied, twisted, distorted, perjured, ‘lost’ evidence which showed his opinions were wrong, destroyed lives, and brought discredit to Ontario’s criminal justice system.
Chipman wisely avoids the usual psychobabble with which people have attempted to explain Smith - an immensely private man – as he focuses instead on how Smith was perceived through his victim’s eyes. Most had never heard of Charles Smith before their loved one died.
Now they will never forget him.
Death in the family’ is a marvelous, timely, humane, gripping read, loaded with insight, and shedding light on one of the most egregious series of miscarriages of justice in Ontario’s history.
Go for it!
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. 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: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot. com/2011/05/charles-smith- blog-award-nominations.html Please
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