Monday, April 7, 2008

Part Twelve; Closing Submission: Affected Families; More Details Of What Top Officials of Chief Coroner's Office Allegedly knew;

This Blog is currently focusing on the submissions filed by the "Affected Families Group" - a group of families who were directly affected by the systemic failings which occurred in pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario between 1991 and 2001;

The Group is represented by lawyers Peter Wardle (Wardle, Daley, Bernstein) and Julie M. Kirkpatrick;

Today's focus is on a section in which the group lays out an array of specific problems with Dr. Smith's work which it alleges had come to the attention of top officials of the Ontario Chief Coroner's Office - and did not result in measures to protect the public.

"By the late 1990’s, the Chief Coroner's Office was aware of serious and continuing problems with turnaround times for Dr. Smith’s reports," the section begins;

"This was one of a number of issues that led Dr. Chiasson to recommend a revisioning of the Ontario Pediatric Forensic Pathology Unit," it continues;

"The problem was so severe that in several instances the Crown had been forced to issue a summons to Dr. Smith.

Regional Coroners were concerned enough about the problem that one of them had encouraged coroners not to use Dr. Smith.

Drs. Young and Cairns also knew of a continued problem with access to Dr. Smith experienced by different players in the justice system.

Dr. Cairns was aware of concerns that Dr. Smith changed his opinions during the course of a case.

Dr. Cairns was aware that in the Simmons case Dr. Smith had made a very serious mistake with respect to DNA evidence which had led to criminal charges not being laid in a timely fashion.

In addition, by the late 1990’s, the Chief Coroner's Office had findings in three specific cases which should have raised concerns about Dr. Smith’s competence, objectivity and professionalism:

In the Amber case, both Drs. Cairns and Young were aware of the acquittal.

In May, 1998 in the Nicholas case Dr. Cairns was sent an excerpt of Justice Dunn’s decision by counsel for the Sudbury CAS.

Whether or not Dr. Young read the decision at the time it was released, he certainly had the decision drawn to his attention at the meeting with Ms. Mann on February 14, and in Mr. Gagnon’s complaint to the Coroner’s Council in February, 1999.

Dr. Young was aware of DM’s complaint to the College Of Physicians And Surgeons Of Ontario about Dr. Smith;
In the Nicholas case, in March, 1999 the Chief Coroner's Office received the opinion of Dr. Mary Case which, concluded “I would not attribute this death to a head injury as there are no findings on which to make such a conclusion”.

Dr. Case was shown on the Fifth Estate program in November, 1999 at a pathology conference giving a presentation about the case, and calling Dr. Smith’s conclusions “in the area of irresponsible testimony”.

Dr. Cairns saw the program. Dr. Young received Mr. Gagnon’s detailed complaint about Dr. Smith in February, 1999;

In the Sharon case, Drs. Cairns and Young knew in February 1999 that international forensic scientists were concerned that the case might lead to a miscarriage of justice.

They knew at around this time that Dr. Smith had lost a cast of Sharon’s skull which had been made an exhibit at the preliminary inquiry.

In July, 1999, following the exhumation, they were aware that many of the wounds were dog bites, contrary to Dr. Smith’s initial opinion.

In 1999, the Chief Coroner's Office should have been aware of the outcome of criminal charges in the Jenna case.

Dr. Smith’s original opinion regarding the timing of injuries had been discredited, first by defence expert Dr. Sigmund Ein on April 23rd, 1999 and then by Dr. Bonita Porter, Deputy Chief Coroner and acting Chair of the Pediatric Death Review Committee, on May 26th, 1999.

The charges against Brenda Waudby were subsequently withdrawn on June 15th;"