Thursday, February 10, 2011


"Smith’s victims may well wonder why prosecutors from the attorney general’s office worked so diligently to hold them accountable but continue to leave Smith untouched."



BACKGROUND: The Goudge inquiry focused largely on the flawed work of Charles Smith — formerly the province's chief pediatric pathologist and a self-styled member of the prosecution team — whose "errors" led to innocent people being branded as child murderers. (He has since been thrown out of the medical profession in Ontario);

The 1,000-page report by Justice Stephen Goudge slammed Smith, along with Ontario's former chief coroner and his deputy, for their roles in wrongful prosecutions and asked the province to consider compensation.

The provincial coroner's office found evidence of errors in 20 of 45 autopsies Smith did over a 10-year period starting in the early 1990s. Thirteen resulted in criminal charges.

William Mullins-Johnson, who was among those cases, spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of his four-year-old niece, whose death was later attributed to natural causes.

In another case, Smith concluded a mother had stabbed her seven-year-old girl to death when it turned out to have been a dog mauling.

The inquiry heard that Smith's failings included hanging on to crucial evidence, "losing" evidence which showed his opinion was wrong and may have assisted the accused person, mistating evidence, chronic tardiness, and the catastrophic misinterpretation of findings.

The cases, along with other heart-rending stories of wrongful prosecutions based in part on Smith's testimony, also raised a host of issues about the pathology system and the reliance of the courts on expert evidence."


"There has been no shortage of accountability for the innocent victims of former doctor Charles Smith: crushing prison sentences, ostracization, financial pressure (the need to hire international experts who were not in awe of Smith), and in some cases permanent loss of other children who were put up for adoption by child welfare authorities,"
the Op-Ed column written for the Toronto Star by Harold Levy, Publisher of the Charles Smith Blog, published earlier today under the heading. "Absence of accountability," begins.

"But there has been utterly no accountability for Smith. There have been no criminal charges or financial consequences. (As a pathologist appointed by the chief coroner to do autopsies, he likely had absolute immunity,)" the column continues.

"The recent revocation of his licence to practise medicine in Ontario is largely meaningless as he has already resigned his membership in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The loss of his stellar reputation as a god of Canadian forensic pathology hardly counts as accountability, as that reputation was obtained by misrepresentation.

This absence of accountability would have been less troublesome if Smith had shown genuine remorse for his misdeeds.

True, his lawyer delivered an apology on Smith’s behalf at the outset of Justice Stephen Goudge’s public inquiry into many of Smith’s botched cases. But Smith has had a decade or more to personally apologize.

True, there were several cases in which Smith accepted responsibility. But these were cases in which he was cornered by the evidence called at the inquiry and there was no one else on whom he could cast the blame.

True, there was the dramatic confrontation during his cross-examination by lawyer James Lockyer, who represented William Mullins-Johnson, a Sault Ste. Marie man who spent more than 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder. When Lockyer asked Smith if he would like to personally apologize to his client, Smith looked around the hearing room and said, “Could you point him out?” Mullins-Johnson, a tall heavy-set man, was sitting at the front of the hearing room within feet of Smith. I was there and I heard his apology. It was a phony apology.

Far from accepting responsibility, Smith used every trick in the book to avoid acknowledging that he intended to harm his victims. He admitted to “errors” and “mistakes.” He argued that his opinions reflected the state of forensic pathology at the time. He suggested that any other pathologist would have acted as he did.

As Justice Goudge bluntly ruled: “Dr. Smith was adamant that his failings were never intentional. I simply cannot accept such a sweeping attempt to escape moral responsibility.”

Smith’s victims may well wonder why prosecutors from the attorney general’s office worked so diligently to hold them accountable but continue to leave Smith untouched.

Prosecutors, who to their shame are fighting tooth and nail against court rulings that Smith’s victims are “actually innocent,” will produce a litany of excuses as to why they should not take action against Smith, such as no reasonable prospect of conviction, the passage of time and lack of availability of witnesses.

In truth, there is no political will to move against Smith because he has already exposed the government to embarrassment, legal appeals by people seeking vindication, potentially millions of dollars in compensation claims, and pressure on the already cash-strained Ontario Legal Aid Plan. (The latest appeal, brought by Tammy Marquardt, who served more than 13 years behind bars, will be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal on Thursday.)

The government would prefer that Charles Smith quickly fade from the public eye because each new case reminds the public how trusted state officials put grieving parents and caregivers in jail — and how cruel, unfair and unjust our justice system can be.

How just is that?”

Harold Levy received a Michener Certificate of Merit in 2005 for his Toronto Star exposés on Charles Smith. He is writing a book on the Smith case and Ontario’s criminal justice system.


The column can be found at:


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be accessed at:

For a breakdown of some of the cases, issues and controversies this Blog is currently following, please turn to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;