Sunday, November 9, 2008


One day before the Goudge Inquiry was released, Ontario prosecutors dropped a murder charge that had been laid against Xiu Zhang in connection with the death of her baby daughter;

Ms. Zhang had gone through the horror and infamy of being charged with murdering her own child and had spent five and a half months behind bars.

The Toronto Star story ran on September 30, 2008 under the heading, "Charges dropped in baby's death," and runs under the sub-heading, "Xiu Zheng's arrest based on her reaction after death, court told."

"A 39-year-old Toronto woman who was accused of killing her infant daughter walked free yesterday after a court was told the charge was based on apparently nothing more than her own physical reactions in the aftermath of the child's death," the story began.

"Accompanied by family members, Xiu Zheng left the Old City Hall courthouse quickly and quietly after a charge of second-degree murder, laid by Toronto police last February, was withdrawn," it continued.

At the heart of reporter Tracey Tyler's story is an interview with lawyer James Lockyer, which proceeds as follows:

"Much of her ordeal – which included five months in a segregation cell at a Milton jail – could have been avoided if police had waited two days for an autopsy to be performed, instead of charging her after an interview conducted in the hours after 40-day-old Xin Lei was found dead," he (Lockyer) said.

"Police jumped the gun," Lockyer said in an interview outside court yesterday.

Arrested shortly after her daughter was pronounced dead by paramedics on Feb. 23, Zheng – who came to Canada in 2006 and speaks no English – was "essentially catatonic," unclear on what was happening and unaware of her rights, Lockyer said.

During the interview, she stared at the floor, mumbling "mmmm" and nodding her head in response to virtually anything posed to her by officers, which included suggestions as to how her daughter might have died, all of which amounted to "homicide," he said.

"Assistant Crown attorney Jill Witkin told Justice Paul Bentley that Zheng's videotaped statement would likely be ruled inadmissible because of her condition at the time of the interview," the story continued;

"Two days after she was questioned, Dr. David Chiasson, the director of pediatric forensic pathology at the Hospital for Sick Children, concluded an autopsy did not reveal a cause of death. Toxicology tests also provided no answers.

Zheng came to Canada in 2006 with two other daughters, ages 4 and 10. Her husband, Li Huang, had arrived earlier.

On the day his youngest daughter died, Huang left the family's home on Manning Ave., near Bathurst and Queen Sts., around 7:30 a.m. to look for work. When he returned home some 12 hours later, the baby appeared to be asleep in bed, with a pillow under her head and a quilt rolled up to her chest, the court was told.

But Zheng was pacing back and forth.

Later that night, Huang's sister and landlord came downstairs to see little Xin Lei, telling her brother the child looked pale. He called paramedics after discovering she was cold and wouldn't wake up.

Witkin said the Crown concluded there was no reasonable prospect of conviction after reviewing Chiasson's report in May.""

Given our current knowledge that there was never any pathological evidence against Ms. Zhang - just a statement taken during a time of enormous grief the tragic death of her daughter, the news stories on the laying of the murder charge against her (based on police sources) deserve close examination.

For example, the Toronto Star story ran on February 25 2008, under the heading, "Mother, 38, charged with murdering her baby."

"A woman has been charged with second-degree murder after her baby was found dead in her home Saturday night," the story by staff reporters Carmen Chai and Paola Loriggio began.

"Police received a call from a home on Manning Ave. near Queen St. W. about a baby not breathing," it continued;

"The victim, Xin Lei Huang, 40 days old, was pronounced dead just before 9 p.m.

Det. Sgt. Gary Grinton of the homicide squad said the baby's death wasn't an accident.

The baby's mother, Xiu Zheng, 38, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Post-partum depression can affect up to 15 per cent of women within 12 months of giving birth. One in 500 to one in 1,000 may suffer from psychosis.

Of the small number who become psychotic, only up to 4 per cent might harm their babies, some studies have shown.

Two cases of infanticide were reported nationwide in 2005, according to Statistics Canada, which defines infanticide as a woman wilfully killing her newborn under the effects of a postpartum disorder.

Police said they did not know whether Zheng suffered from postpartum depression

Police officers last night guarded the family's two-storey, semi-detached brick home until forensics experts could conduct a search.

A post-mortem examination is scheduled for today.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or at the website"

Looking briefly at this story, we see a statement by the police that the death was not accidental, a suggestion has been made (but not attributed) that this was an infanticide (an extremely serious criminal offence) - and the invitation to contact Crimestoppers, essentially tells the public that Ms. Zhang is a criminal (rather than a grieving mother), and that there may be more dirt out there.

So terribly unfair.