SUB-HEADING: "I spent four years in an Italian prison for a crime I did not commit. And I am not alone."

GIST: "So what does it feel like? When you’re accused of a horrific act you didn’t do, you inevitably experience shock, disorientation, confusion. There’s tension above your right eyebrow and below your right nostril that sometimes triggers both to twitch uncontrollably, making you self-conscious about looking people in the face. There’s a pinpoint knot that spasms between your shoulder blades, behind your heart, making it hard to sit still. There’s pressure that squeezes your temples and tingles on the edges of your eyeballs, making it hard to concentrate. You sometimes feel dizzy, dazed, disoriented, forgetful, disconnected from your own body. You wake up drained, your whole body weighed down by a lethargy you can’t shake off. You feel a sometimes dragging, sometimes crushing weight. You’ll be tense from your ears to your lower abdomen, struggling to swallow, struggling to breathe.  All of it, even years later, can transform into a full-blown panic attack—triggered by a ghost of a memory, or by a casual and unrelated event. Walking the streets of Seattle, my heart races whenever I pass a person who even remotely resembles an ex-cellmate or guard. TV commercials, sounding all alike on either side of the Atlantic, remind me so much of the incessant din of the prison that I want to cry. The stress of keeping pace with normal life, of something as simple as responding to emails on time, becomes associated with the stress of defending myself and can make me withdraw into the numb, stony silence of survival.  That anxiety arrives even in the most casual and safe of circumstances, like at family barbecues. You’re hypersensitive to what people say, don’t say, and how they say it. Your family’s and friends’ words dissolve into white noise over the course of an evening because you’ve become accustomed to interacting for only an hour at a time during visiting hours. There’s an accumulation of primal anger and grief that can find no satisfactory expression. And there is always this thought: How can you reconcile with significant parts of society that abused your trust, your rights, your innocence—then tried to justify that abuse? The trauma felt by the victim of wrongful accusation and conviction is foreign and unimaginable to the majority of people. But its effect on a person should never be minimized. It is wrong, horrifying, devastating—emotionally, intellectually, viscerally. It is very lonely, and yet, there are so many more of us out there than you know, holding our breath."

The entire essay can be found at:


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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 found at:

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