Justice officials reviewing the work of a former forensic pathologist in Alberta have found mistakes in 13 of 14 cases.
A review by an independent medical panel was announced early this year to look into the files of Dr. Evan Matshes. He worked at the Calgary medical examiner’s office for one year before he left in 2011. Dr. Matshes worked on 426 death investigations, including 262 autopsies, during that time.
“The panel found the conclusions reached by Dr. Matshes to be unreasonable regarding either the cause of death, manner of death and/or other opinions,” the Alberta government said in a news release Thursday.
Of the 14 cases examined by the panel, three resulted in criminal prosecutions. Two are currently before the courts and one has concluded.
A dedicated Crown prosecutor is doing a separate review of Dr. Matshes’s files to see if any mistakes interfered with the court process.
Justice spokeswoman Michelle Davio said 24 people have been accused of crimes in deaths the doctor investigated. She said one person in a case where mistakes were found is in custody.
“No criminal prosecutions have been reopened, nor have any of the cases been lost to date solely as a result of the doctor’s evidence,” Ms. Davio said.
Defence lawyers handling the cases have been notified, she added.
Ian Savage, co-president of the Calgary Defence Lawyers Association, said the matter is concerning.
“If there’s even a small chance that testimony he gave in court, or reports that he prepared that were used in court, were incorrect in any way and led to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person, that’s obviously something that needs to be rectified.”
Mr. Savage said it’s also disappointing the prosecutor is still looking into the criminal cases, considering the review was announced 10 months ago.
Calgary defence lawyer Jack Kelly said he’s pleased justice officials are reviewing the doctor’s criminal work. But he said it’s unfortunate that the courts place so much reliance on medical examiner’s reports. Many accused simply can’t afford to get a second opinion from another pathologist, he noted.
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