Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

In depth

14 cases tainted by Charles Smith's evidence Add to ...

The flawed work of pathologist Charles Smith led to serious questions about the cases of 19 children who died in unusual circumstances.

In 2008, Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge concluded that Charles Smith was an arrogant, unqualified pathologist whose biased, inconsistent and unprofessional testimony precipitated a string of wrongful murder charges and convictions.

Judge Goudge recommended that the Ontario government look into providing swift redress for people who "through no fault of their own … suffered tragic and devastating consequences."

Here are some of the people who were charged in the deaths of children based on Dr. Smith's findings.













Oneil Blackett

Oneil Blackett pleaded guilty in 2001 to the manslaughter of his 13-month-old daughter Tamara Thomas.

Tamara was in a full-body cast from a broken thigh when Mr. Blackett tried to force her to drink a bottle of chocolate milk on Feb. 8, 1999. He rammed the bottle into her mouth until the child began to vomit milk and blood, then gave up, leaving the child in her play pen.

When Tamara's mother came home, the toddler was cold and not breathing. A post-mortem by Dr. Smith concluded she died from asphyxia associated with multiple traumatic injuries. Mr. Blackett was charged with second-degree murder.

Despite concerns about the validity of Dr. Smith's testimony, Mr. Blackett agree to plead guilty to manslaughter as a sign of remorse, his lawyer said. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, on top of the 15 months he had already served awaiting trial.







Richard Brant

Richard Brant was convicted of aggravated assault in 1995 for the death of his two-month-old son, Dustin.

Mr. Brant was taking Dustin for a walk when he noticed red foam around the baby's nose. Dustin died two days later, on Nov. 18, 1992.

Dr. Smith concluded Dustin had been shaken to death, despite the fact that the baby's brain had rotted away after morgue staff mistakenly left it in a container of water. His findings contradicted the findings of a neuropathologist who had examined the child's brain and concluded he had likely died of pneumonia.

Mr. Brant said he felt compelled to plead guilty to aggravated assault to avoid a possible manslaughter conviction. He conceded he had accidentally jostled Dustin during a physical struggle with his wife.

In January, 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Mr. Brant permission to reopen the case and fight his conviction.









William and Mary Colville

William and Mary Colville found their three-and-a-half-month-old daughter Tiffani dead in her crib in their Kingston, Ont., home on the morning of July 4, 1993,

A pathologist at the local hospital said while the baby died of undetermined causes, there were no suspicious circumstances.

After the girl was buried, police learned that a radiologist had overlooked rib fractures on Tiffani's x-ray. Her body was exhumed and Dr. Smith performed a second autopsy. He found multiple rib fractures and diagnosed the cause of death as asphyxia.

Police charged Tiffani's parents with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

In 1995, the court dismissed the first two charges, and the Colvilles pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life. Mary Colville received a suspended sentence and two years' probation. William Colville was sentenced to five months in custody.



"Jane Doe"

Jane Doe, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, pleaded guilty in 1994 to the manslaughter death of her newborn baby, referred to in case files as "Baby M".

Ms. Doe was 21 when she went into the bathroom of her family's home in Pickering, Ont., with what she thought were stomach cramps. At about 10 p.m. on Nov. 8, 1992, she gave birth to a boy. She later said she didn't know she was pregnant.

Her parents found her in the early hours of the morning, covered in blood. Ambulance attendants found Baby M's body in the toilet. Dr. Smith performed an autopsy later that morning, and concluded the cause of death was asphyxia. That evening, police charged Ms. Doe with second-degree murder.

Medical reports presented to the court said there was no concrete indication to show if Baby M died in the toilet or if he'd become entangled in the umbilical cord. Ms. Doe was given a suspended sentence and three years' probation, and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Single page
 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular