Saturday, February 9, 2008

Part Four: Smith Testifies In Death Penalty Case: The Mullins-Johnson Factor;

This was not just any case;

Christopher Fuller was facing the death penalty;

The jury wanted him executed.

It was only the judge's decision - based on his lack of a previous criminal record, his support of his family, and his military service for his country - that kept him alive.

As lawyer James Lockyer, who represents nine families affected by Dr. Smith, told the Inquiry:

"If we visualized Mr. Mullins-Johnson being convicted south of the border in the wrong state, he would almost certainly have been sentenced to death for the crime that he was convicted, albeit it was a crime that never happened."

Lawyer Louis Sokolov, who represents The Association In Defence Of The Wrongly Convicted, put it this way:

"Knowing what we do now about Dr. Smith's failings as a pathologist and as a witness, the prospect that a jury would be asked to recommend a death sentence
based, in part, upon his evidence is, to say the least, disquieting."

Lockyer, Sokolov and other lawyers at the Inquiry, Smith's appearance as an expert witness in the Hamilton, Ohio courtroom raises some important issues, including:

Capital punishment: (Legal systems have to live with the possibility of error. The unique feature of capital punishment is that it puts beyond recall the possibility of correction." (Supreme Court of Canada); (Our worst fear: Execution of an innocent person);

Should Ontario resources (public funds) be used in prosecutions that seek execution.

Was Dr. Smith involved in any other death penalty cases?

Is there a policy in place at the Chief Coroner's office to either prevent or, indeed, to permit testimony of Ontario pathologists in death penalty cases?

If Ontario officials are permitted to or are, indeed, loaned out as a resource,
in support of death penalty cases in the US,

Should Ontario citizens be informed when this happens?

Are there, or should there be, governing use of Ontario pathologists in death penalty prosecutions?


How could Dr. Smith's superiors in the Chief Coroner's Office have him allowed to take on such a huge responsibility given the prevailing public knowledge of his incompetence?

Other questions:

Who, if anyone, at the Ontario Chief Coroner’s Office or the Hospital For Sick Children permitted or, indeed, requested that Dr. Smith would assist in this case?

If no one permitted him to do so, how was he able to do so?

How was he able to leave his job and - and travel, to take on these responsibilities?

Who paid for the time that he spent engaging in this work?

What other cases outside of Canada did Dr. Smith testify in or consult in?

Answers to most of these questions will unfortunately not likely be forthcoming because the interested lawyers did not have the opportunity to address them either to Dr. Smith or Dr. James Young, the former Chief Coroner;

But questions aside, how could this self-admitted "ignorant" man have put himself in a situation where his testimony could determine the life or death of an accused person?

Is it too harsh to blame him - for not recognizing his limitations?

Must the responsibility be shared by his superior's in the Chief Coroner's Office and the Hospital for Sick Children who boosted him publicly by allowing him to keep doing his work while his flaws?

Does the College of Physicians and Surgeons have to take a share of the blame for not imposing a punishment which would appear on the College registrar and be publicly available for anyone to examine?

So much grist for the Charles Smith Blog!