Sunday, October 24, 2010


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In view of the $4.25 million compensation William Mullins-Johnson that was announced on October 21, 2010 by the Ontario government, I am re-running some early posts relating to the case. The following post - published on October11, 2007, ran under the heading, "A troubling tale of missing forensic exhibits."




One of the most disturbing sections of the Factum filed by William Mullins-Johnson's lawyers in the Ontario Court of Appeal for the Reference set for Monday is a series of letters relating to their desperate attempt to obtain forensic exhibits from Valin Johnson's autopsy which they believed had been sent to Dr. Charles Smith.

The letters were crucial.

Without them Mullins-Johnson would likely spend much of the rest of his life in prison having been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his beloved 4-year-old niece.

"In the summer of 2002, AIDWYC commissioned Professor Bernard Knight, a pathologist of international repute, to provide an assessment of the pathological aspects of Valin Johnson’s death," the section relating to the missing exhibits begins.

"Professor Knight asked to be provided with the slides and blocks prepared at the autopsy for subsequent microscopic examination.

On February 27, 2003, AIDWYC wrote to Crown Law Office and advised that it had enlisted the help of Professor Knight, and requested the slides and blocks for his examination.

Follow-up requests were sent to the Crown on May 21, 2003 and January 6, 2004. On January 12, 2004, counsel for the Crown responded. He wrote:
I understand your frustration over the delay in receiving the materials you have requested. When I had to be away from the office for personal reasons in the late fall I had hoped that I would have a favourable response from Dr. Smith to my repeated requests for the forensic material. He informed me on December 29, 2003 that he has been unable to locate the slides. I have asked him to conduct a further search and he has agreed to do so and provide me with a written response to my requests. I will be in contact with him again this week if I have not heard from him.

On January 20, 2004, AIDWYC wrote back:
With respect to the microscopic slides which are required by our expert to assess the physical evidence that we have in furtherance of AIDWYC’s investigation of this matter, it is disconcerting to hear that Dr. Smith has been “unable to locate” the slides. As you have indicated that you will be asking Dr. Smith to look for the slides again and provide a written report with respect to his efforts, I wonder if you might also ask him if there are blocks of tissue from the autopsy from which new slides can be made if the originals have been lost.
You have also included in a subsequent telephone call that you will have an officer investigate the whereabouts of the slides. I would also ask that you have this officer look into the availability of tissue blocks from which new slides can be taken. ..

On January 28, 2004, the Crown wrote to Dr. Smith as follows:
Dear Dr. Smith:
Re: Microscopic slides and tissue blocks of
Deceased Valin Johnson (Autopsy number A-93-51)
I understand from our recent telephone conversation that you have so far been unable to locate any of the microscopic slides examined by you in this case.
I would greatly appreciate if you could confirm, in writing, whether this continues to be the case and whether, if the slides are not available, you have any knowledge of whether the tissue block from the autopsy is nevertheless available from which new slides could be generated.
I would appreciate hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Thank you very much.

On February 27, 2004, the Crown forwarded written material to AIDWYC which established that all the slides and blocks of tissue collected at Valin Johnson’s autopsy had been sent by Dr. Rasaiah to Dr. Smith at the Hospital for Sick Children on June 22, 1994, and that none of them had ever been returned by him. The Crown advised that Dr. Smith had not responded to his letter of January 28, 2004, and continued:
I am considering what other options are available to us to obtain the material or further information about it from Dr. Smith and will keep you advised. ..

On April 13, 2004, the Crown again wrote to AIDWYC:
On March 16, 2004 I sent Dr. Smith a registered letter asking for a response to my earlier letter requesting his written response to my questions about the possible whereabouts of the forensic material in this case. I have not heard back from him. I have asked the police to conduct inquiries with the office of the Coroner in the event that they might be of any assistance.
If you see fit to pursue any particular procedure or course of action I would be pleased to cooperate.

On November 15, 2004, AIDWYC wrote to the Crown and asked whether there had been any further developments:
Obviously, our office and AIDWYC, which is investigating this case, are concerned that Dr. Smith’s negligence appears to have brought any investigation of this aspect of the case to a standstill.
On December 10, 2004, the Crown advised that some of the slides had been found:
I am writing to tell you that Dr. McLellan’s office has been successful in locating some of the original autopsy slides from Mr. Mullins-Johnson’s trial. It appears, however, that there are still some slides outstanding which may be relevant for your purposes.
Dr. McLellan’s office is in the process of reviewing the slides and searching for the remaining ones. They will also be taking steps to ensure that a proper record of the slides is created prior to releasing them to you. I understand that they hope to be in a position to have them sent to you in early January. I will advise you as soon as possible.

By this time, three years had passed since AIDWYC’s first request in 2001 to the Chief Coroner for a review of the case, and 22 months had passed since the first request for the slides and tissue blocks. ..

AIDWYC wrote follow-up reminders on January 10 and February 4, 2005.

On February 16, 2005, Crown Law Office forwarded a report of Dr. Michael Pollanen dated January 19, 2005 which provided a review of the pathology of Valin’s death.

In his covering letter, the Crown wrote:
It seems that your request for production of the microscopic slides in this case set in motion a series of events that led to something of a review being conducted by Dr. Pollanen of at least some of the available materials in this case, and the preparation of [Dr. Pollanen’s] Report.
Dr. Pollanen’s report is reviewed at length infra.

On May 19, 2005, the Crown wrote to advise that the remaining tissue blocks and slides had been found:
I was just contacted by the Coroner’s Office and advised that, just this past Friday (May 6, 2005), the review being conducted by the Coroner’s Office in conjunction with the Hospital for Sick Children, turned up some 28 Paraffin tissue blocks and 10 microscopic slides in relation to this case. They were discovered, I understand, in Dr. Charles Smith’s office. These are the materials that, initially, were thought to be missing or lost. These materials have now been provided to Dr. Michael Sven Pollanen for his review and consideration.

On May 31, 2005, the Crown provided a copy of Dr. Pollanen’s Supplementary Report dated May 24, 2005 to AIDWYC.

On June 29, 2005, AIDWYC requested that all tissue slides and blocks be sent to Professor Knight in Wales for his examination. They were sent to him on July 6, 2005. On August 11, 2005, Professor Knight provided a report on the pathology of Valin’s death. .."

We know now that testing of the forensic materials ultimately retrieved from Dr. Smith's office by the Chief Coroner's staff showed that Valin Johnson was neither sexually assaulted or strangled but died a tragic, but natural death.

That one letter says it all..."By this time, (discovery of the first group of slides in Dr. Smith's office) three years had passed since AIDWYC’s first request in 2001 to the Chief Coroner for a review of the case, and 22 months had passed since the first request for the slides and tissue blocks" - while William Mullins-Johnson languished behind bars in the solitary cell he had requested for protection from other inmates."

How sad...