Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I have some serious problems with an editorial which appeared in the Kingston Whig-Standard after release of the Goudge Report.

The editorial naturally focused on the Louise Reynolds case - which occurred in the Kingston, Ontario.

First, the editorial, which appeared under the heading "Unanswered questions: Our view," and then I will lay out the serious problems which I have with it.

"Eleven years after she was wrongfully accused of murdering her young daughter Sharon in a north-end Kingston housing unit, Louise Reynolds has received an apology from the provincial government and a promise of compensation," the editorial, which has a sub-heading, "Justice: There's still much we don't know about Sharon Reynold's death," begins.

"Reynolds' case was one of about 20 reviewed in an exhaustive inquiry by Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge who, on Wednesday, released his findings into the botched work of pathologist Charles Smith," it continues.

"Smith's findings and court testimony into the suspicious deaths he investigated between 1991 and 2001 resulted in a series of wrongful convictions and murder charges. Reviews of other cases will follow.

Smith conducted the 1997 autopsy on Sharon Reynolds' body and attributed her death to stab wounds. Louise Reynolds was charged by Kingston Police and held in detention for two years, and kept under investigation for an additional year, until experts reviewed Smith's work and ruled that the little girl had died of dog bites.

It turned out that Smith was falsely presenting himself as an expert in pediatric forensic pathology and had no experience in the field of dog bites.

Goudge found many of Smith's findings so flawed that they "defied logic."Yet Smith managed to pass himself off, time and again, as an expert beyond reproach.

This charade, Goudge noted, was enabled by Smith's bosses, chief coroner James Young and deputy chief coroner James Cairns. He found that they regularly shielded Smith and his work from critics, despite mounting concern about his abilities among judges, lawyers and police.

The inquiry findings close one chapter in the tragic case of Sharon Reynolds' death.

But Kingston Police consider it to be an open case. There remain numerous unanswered questions about the minutes and hours leading up to the little girl's death and what part various adults may have played in it.

How did she end up with a vicious dog in the basement of her home? Why had police not been alerted sooner to the fact that, when the dog's owner went to the Reynolds home to reclaim it from the basement, the animal had a red substance on it that was later washed off ?

These questions and other basic facts of the case have never been tried in court. The case was dropped because Smith's findings were revealed to be so seriously flawed. And now, with the pledge of compensation, Louise Reynolds may drop her civil case against Smith and the province.

The release of the Goudge report is an important milestone for Smith's many adult victims who have suffered due to his incompetence and hubris.

It is critical for the Ontario justice system in that government ministers have promised that the many important recommendations made by Goudge will be implemented. Public confidence in the system must be restored.

But each case had its own peculiarities and unanswered questions before becoming entwined in this legal scandal. Setting the record straight in the Sharon Reynolds case, for instance, means more than just compensating her mother for a life disrupted.

Adults failed this little girl long before Dr. Charles Smith came on the scene.

Kingston Police would welcome an inquiry into her death. Realistically, there is little chance of that happening.

And as one chapter closes, the most important one remains unwritten and unexplained."

And now for the serious problems - the failure of the editorial board to tell the Kingston Police Force to get a life and stop acting if Louise Reynolds were guilty of the horrible crime.

To the contrary, the evidence called at the Goudge Inquiry made patently clear contrary to the insistence of the force - that Sharon was savaged by a Pit Bull - which the force should have realized from the outset if it had not been blinded by its tunnel vision and crippled by its lack of investigative prowess.

To this humble Bloggist, the important issue - the one that remains unwritten and unexplained - is how the Whig lost its soul?

Instead of crying out for sympathy for Reynolds - who has maintained herself with extraordinary dignity in spite of her horrific personal loss - it seems determined to keep pursuing her to somehow keep the heat off of the force.

For shame.

Harold Levy...hlevy15@gmail.com;