Monday, October 25, 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 October 5, 20017, ran under the heading, "Smith's credibility boosted in courtroom" Mullins-Johnson's lawyers claim."


Lawyers for William Mullins-Johnson have cited the dangers of unbalanced expert testimony in a factum filed in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

"Frequently the experts’ assertions in cases such as the Appellant’s are extremely dogmatic," the brief says..

"In Valin Johnson’s case, Dr. (Patricia) Zehr (a general practitioner with a speciality in obstetrics and gynecology) told Sgt. Welton that the appearance of what she described as anal penetration on Valin was the “worst she’s ever seen”.

Dr. Smith expressed the opinion that there was a “clear” cause of death, based on a pre-mortem “fissure” in Valin’s rectal canal that only he and Dr. (Marcellina) Mian (A pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children) saw as such.

In the English quartet of cases known as R. v. Harris, a consultant pediatrician described gross pre-retinal haemorrhages in the eyes of Lorraine Harris’ 16 month old deceased son as being
“so extensive that he could not recall seeing any that were worse.”

Ms. Harris’ manslaughter conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal. A similar claim was made in the accompanying case of Raymond Rock’s deceased daughter.

In one of the other accompanying cases, that of Michael Faulder, a Crown doctor described a head injury of Mr. Faulder’s son as requiring a “massive and violent force comparable to a child being hit by a car travelling at 40 m.p.h.”

The same doctor had also expressed her certain opinion that the child had been the victim of shaking. Gage L.J. said:

During the summing up at trial the jury were told that Dr. San Lazaro was ‘very, very experienced’ and ‘specialises in child protection and abuse’ cases.

They were also reminded that Dr. San Lazaro had said ‘I am as certain as you can be in medicine’ in her opinion that this was a shaking injury.

This ‘certain’ opinion from the Crown’s principal witness is now rejected by Crown experts who are equally firm in their own opinion.

Dr. Lazaro’s opinions, like those of Professor Meadows and Dr. Charles Smith, have become the subject of intense scrutiny.

Gage L.J. explained the criticism of her work in Harris:

Dr. San Lazaro’s credibility and impartiality have subsequently been seriously challenged in the case of Lilley & Reed v. Newcastle City Council...It is indeed the case that Mr. Justice Eady considered Dr. San Lazaro’s role in a substantial child sexual abuse investigation and, having heard her give evidence, found that, in order to meet what she perceived to be the needs of the children she examined, she was prepared to throw “objectivity and scientific rigour to the winds in a highly emotional misrepresentation of the facts”. She was, according to Eady J’s findings, “unbalanced, obsessive and lacking in judgment.”

In Cannings, Judge L.J. put this issue this way:

And what was confidently presented to the jury as virtually overwhelming expert evidence providing the necessary proof that Jason and Matthew’s deaths resulted from the infliction of deliberate harm, should now be approached with a degree of healthy scepticism..."

See post: Ontario Court of Appeal Will Hear the Mullins-Johnson Reference on October 15;

Harold Levy;