November 27, 2007
In the 1990’s, Dr. Charles Smith was the head of Ontario’s pediatric forensic pathology unit. Now an inquiry has described his work as bordering on the ‘bizarre’ and has called into question his testimony in dozens of cases.
Pathologists from Britain and Alberta have determined that Smith made errors ranging from subtle to extreme, some of them leading to convictions of innocent people.
One of those was William Mullins-Johnson who has been found not guilty in the death of his four-year-old niece, but who spent 12 years in prison for her rape and murder, based mostly on Dr. Smith’s testimony. During the appeal and a review of the forensic evidence, it was discovered that not only did William not rape and murder his niece, but that the girl wasn’t raped and murdered at all; her death was accidental.
Now it seems the doctor’s shortcomings were systemic of problems throughout the coroner’s office. In January 2001, as questions about his performance were beginning to surface, Smith wrote a letter to his superiors asking to be excused from performing postmortems, and suggesting the office commission an independent review of his work. His request went ignored and Smith was still conducting autopsies until 2003.
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