Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Charles Randal Smith From Wikipedia

Dr. Charles Randal Smith was the head pediatric forensic pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, from 1982 to 2003. The quality of his autopsies, and the resulting criminal charges and convictions of several people have been called into question, and a full public inquiry has been promised.


Dr. Smith graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1975. He completed his training in Pathology at the University of Toronto and was certified as an anatomical pathologist in 1980. He joined the Hospital for Sick Children in 1981 as one of the rotating team of pathologists, and shortly was doing autopsies on children who had met sudden or suspicious deaths.

In 1992 the Ontario Coroner’s Office created a pediatric forensic pathology unit at Hospital for Sick Children and Smith was appointed director. He had become almost solely responsible for investigating suspicious child deaths in Ontario. In this period he conducted hundreds of autopsies and testified in court multiple times. He conducted training sessions for lawyers on how to examine and cross-examine expert witnesses, and training for law-enforcement and medical staff on detecting child abuse. He pioneered the use of CAT-scan technology on the remains of children to detect the signs of abuse.[citation needed]

In 2002 he received a reprimand with a caution from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for his work on three suspicious death cases, and in 2003 he was removed from performing autopsies. In July 2005 he resigned to take up a position at Saskatoon City Hospital, from which he was dismissed in December 2005. He was reinstated for a period in 2006, after arbitration. He pled guilty to a charge of unprofessional conduct handed down by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, for not disclosing he was under investigation in Ontario. He currently resides in Victoria.

In 2005 the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario launched a full review of 44 autopsies conducted by Dr. Smith, including 13 that had resulted in criminal convictions. Released in April 2007, It concluded that at least 20 of them were unsatisfactory.

Cases of Concern

An un-named 12 year old (the names of children under 18 and their families charged with crimes cannot be released under Canadian Law) from Timmins, Ontario, was charged with manslaughter, based on Dr. Smith’s testimony, and 3 years and $150,000 later, she was completely cleared in 1991. Ontario Provincial Court Judge Patrick Dunn, after hearing from 9 other expert witnesses testifying that the cause of death was an accidental fall, criticized Dr. Smith for not even following his own prescribed autopsy procedures in accusing the Grade 6 student of shaking a 16-month-old baby to death.

Lianne Thibeault (née Gagnon) 11 month old son Nicholas died suddenly in 1995. The police investigation ruled out foul play, but a year later the chief coroner’s office asked Dr. Smith to review the case, and he concluded that it was homicide, attributable to blunt head injury. He exhumed the body, and after performing an autopsy concluded that Nicholas died from brain swelling consistent with blunt force injury, although he could not rule out asphyxiation.

When the Crown did not lay charges, Dr. Smith informed the Children’s Aid Society that he was 99% certain that Thibeault, then pregnant, had killed Nicholas. The CAS took wardship of her unborn child and placed her name on the list of known child abusers. After the birth, she was not allowed to be alone with her baby. Her father launched a court battle to clear her name, which was ultimately successful, with the Court’s own independent expert summarily dismissing Smith’s opinion. CAS did a complete about-face.

Maureen Laidley was charged with killing Tyrell Salmon, the three-year-old son of her boyfriend. Laidley says the boy had been jumping off a couch, slipped and banged his head on a marble coffee table. But police arrested her after Smith told them that injuries like that cannot cause death. The charge was abruptly stayed when outside experts testified that the injuries were fully consistent with the Laidley’s account.

William Mullins-Johnson was found guilty after a two and half week trial in September 1994, of the first-degree murder of Valin Johnson of Sault Ste. Marie. He was convicted after a jury trial in which Dr. Smith’s evidence played a major role in determining the time of death, the cause of death and whether the girl had been sexually assaulted. Mullins-Johnson had babysat Valin, 4, and her 3-year-old brother on the evening of June 26, 1993. When the girl's mother returned home, she did not check on her daughter. At 7 a.m. the next day she found Valin dead in bed.

A local pathologist performed an autopsy on Valin. Then "consultation reports" were sought from Smith and four other specialists, based on tissue samples and other evidence from the autopsy. Smith was the only consultant to conclude Valin was sexually assaulted at the time of death. That contradicted the defence's point that Valin, who had a history of vomiting in bed, might have died of natural causes. The jury convicted, which the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld 1996, and the Supreme Court dismissed a further appeal in 1998.

Attempts were made to clear his name based on available DNA technology, but the tissue could not be located by Smith, who was given the evidence by the pathologist who did the autopsy, until 2005, 11 years after the trial, when the missing tissue samples turned up in Dr. Smith’s office. William Mullins-Johnson was released on bail in 2006, pending review of his case. On July 16th, 2007, a report by three expert pathologists determined there was no evidence that the girl was sexually assaulted, and the Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant, said that Mr. Mullins-Johnson's conviction “cannot stand” and that he should be acquitted by the appeals court. On October 15, 2007 he was acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeals.

On the morning of January 23rd 1996, Sherry Sherret found her four month old son Joshua lying in his bed not breathing. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Three and a half years later she was given the option to accept a plea of infanticide. She was convicted of infanticide without offering a defence (but offering no admission of guilt) in a plea (the delay was primarily attributable to Dr. Smith's unavailability to testify). Sherret was jailed on the basis of Smith's opinion that her four-month-old son Joshua had a skull fracture, and that he had been smothered. She was released on bail in 1996 and remained on bail until the conviction, Sherret's sentence was 1 year in jail and 2 years probation. Sherret served 8 months in total, and was entered into the child abuse registry. Her older child was removed by Children's Aid, and in order to get him out of foster care, she agreed to give him up for adoption and have no physical contact with him until he was 18.

In a new relationship, she got pregnant, as was only allowed to have contact with her baby if she was supervised. In 2006 Joshua was exhumed and re-autopsied; the report concluded that there had been no skull fracture and the marks on Joshua's neck had been caused by Dr. Smith himself during the autopsy, and that the cause of death was almost certainly a comforter bunching around his head. Children's Aid has removed the conditions on her.

Brenda Waudby of Peterborough was charged with beating her 2-year-old daughter Jenna to death on Jan. 22, 1997, on the basis of Smith's professional opinion as to what time the injuries were inflicted. The charge was dropped on June 15, 1999, when a prosecutor cited "certain medical evidence that has shifted dramatically:" five other medical experts said the toddler's injuries were inflicted on the evening of her death, when she was in the care of a 14-year-old boy. A crucial piece of evidence, a strand of pubic-like hair found on the body, went missing; it was eventually found in an envelope on Dr. Smith’s desk, where it had apparently sat for five years.

Anthony Kporwodu and Angela Veno, were charged in 1997 with murdering their infant son. Dr. Smith took more than seven months to prepare his initial autopsy report. The charges were ultimately thrown out by a judge for violating the constitutional right to a timely trial.

Louise Reynolds was a 28 year old single mother living in Kingston, Ontario, charged with 2nd degree murder for having killed her seven-year old daughter Sharon in 1997 by stabbing her more than 80 times with a pair of scissors, “because she was angry at her for having head-lice.” Much of the case rested on Dr. Smith’s 10-page autopsy report. In January 2001 the Crown abruptly dropped the charges, after numerous experts, including Crown witnesses, disagreed with Smith and agreed that a powerful dog had mauled the girl (there was a pit-bull present in the house at the time). By then, Reynolds had spent three and a half years in jail awaiting trial.

Ms. Reynolds sued, and in March 2007 the court of appeals ruled in a ground-breaking decision that the suit against Dr. Smith and other experts can go ahead; while court testimony is protected, faulty work is not.


In 2002, Dr. Smith was reprimanded with a caution by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for his work on three suspicious-death cases.

In July 2005 he resigned from Sick Children's Hospital to take up a position at Saskatoon City Hospital in Saskatchewan. In December 2005 he was dismissed. He won on appeal, but because he did not have a licence to practise in Saskatchewan, he was not re-instated. He currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia.

In June 2005, the Chief Coroner of Ontario ordered a review of 44 autopsies carried out by Dr. Smith, 13 of them in cases where there had been resulting criminal charges and convictions. The report was released in April 2007, indicating that there were substantial problems with 20 of the autopsies. In response, in April 2007, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant announced that there would be a full public inquiry into the matter, the Goudge Inquiry, which got underway on November 12, 2007.

Other Pathology Scandals

Some feel that the case bears uncanny similarities to that of Professor Sir Samuel Roy Meadow (born 1933), a discredited former British paediatrician best known for his 1977 academic paper on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP), in which parents are said to fabricate their child's illness, and his dictum that “one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, until proved otherwise“, which became known as Meadow's Law.

However, Meadow was, if the charges were correct, guilty of chasing what amounted to a crackpot theory; Smith, if the charges are correct, was guilty of shoddy work and an "always guilty" approach.

Another recent pathology scandal has been the Alder Hey organs scandal, circa 1996.

The Man Behind The Public Inquiry

Last Updated April 24, 2007
CBC News

On a typical case, he might have to decide whether a child had been shaken to death or accidentally fallen from a highchair.

Dr. Charles Smith was once considered top-notch in his field of forensic child pathology. In 1999, a Fifth Estate documentary singled him out as one of four Canadians with this rare expertise.

Dr. Charles Smith was long regarded as one of Canada's best in forensic child pathology. A public inquiry was called after an Ontario coroner's inquiry questioned Smith's conclusions in 20 of 45 child autopsies. (CBC)

For 24 years, Smith worked at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. In the hospital's pediatric forensic pathology unit, he conducted more than 1,000 child autopsies.

But Smith no longer practises pathology. An Ontario coroner's inquiry reviewed 45 child autopsies in which Smith had concluded the cause of death was either homicide or criminally suspicious.

The coroner's review found that Smith made questionable conclusions of foul play in 20 of the cases — 13 of which had resulted in criminal convictions. After the review's findings were made public in April 2007, Ontario's government ordered a public inquiry into the doctor's practices.

Some have accused Smith of taking on a role larger than pathologist. The lawyer for Brenda Waudby said he was on a crusade and acted more like a prosecutor. Waudby was convicted in the murder of her daughter after Smith analyzed the case.

A pubic-like hair found on her daughter went missing during Smith's investigation. It was discovered he had kept the hair in his office before police found it five years later. In the end, Waudby's charges were dropped and the child's babysitter was convicted.

Smith said he had a passion for uncovering the truth in child deaths. The Ontario pathologist told media lampooning him he had "a thing against people who hurt children." He welled up when speaking about a mother looking for the cause of her baby's death.

Smith had been in search of his own personal truths. He was born in a Toronto Salvation Army hospital where he was put up for adoption three months later. After years of looking for his biological mother, he called her on her 65th birthday. But she refused to take his call.

Smith's adoptive family moved often. His father's job in the Canadian Forces took them throughout Canada and to Germany. He attended high school in Ottawa, and graduated from medical school at the University of Saskatchewan in 1975.

Sick Kids tenure

Hired by Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children in 1979, Smith worked in surgery for a year and then moved on to pathology training. A pathologist studies diseases and illnesses by assessing matter such as cells, tissues, organs and fluids. Pathologists also examine biopsy material, and give a subsequent diagnosis.

When it comes to autopsy reports, the field of pathology can be a subjective one. It's based on research and opinion, and it's especially controversial in Canada, where there is no formal training or certification process. Only a handful of practitioners in Ontario are entrusted with the job — and they've learned by doing.

With child victims, forensic analysis is rarely cut and dried. It can take an infant up to 24 hours to die of a shaking incident, which is a crime that doesn't leave evidence the way a regular killing might.

After his initial training at Sick Kids, as the Toronto hospital is known, Smith began conducting child autopsies in 1981. He started with children who had died of accidental and natural causes. By the late '90s, Smith saw more forensic child cases than any other pathologist across the country.

Smith's unit used arrest warrants to reinvestigate cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). He oversaw the autopsies of exhumed babies that led to new murder charges.

In one such case, Smith appeared before a court in the death of six-month-old Sara Podniewicz. He concluded she had been dead for up to 15 hours before her parents reported the death. The parents had told a 911 operator the girl had died just moments before. Smith's analysis led to second-degree murder charges.

First doubts

In 1991, a family in Timmins, Ont., was the first to raise questions about Smith's work. He had concluded their one-year-old baby had died from being shaken. The child had been under the care of a babysitter who said the baby had fallen down stairs.

In court, experts challenged Smith's opinion, which had resulted in the babysitter's charge of manslaughter. The judge in the case stated Smith should have taken other causes into consideration.

Once the most prolific pathologist, Smith began getting a reputation for late cases, and his disorderly desk produced samples that had gone missing.

In 2002, he received a caution from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. The college said he was being "overly dogmatic" and had a "tendency towards overstatement."

In June 2005, Dr. Barry McLellan, Ontario's chief coroner, started the review of 45 child autopsies conducted by Smith between 1991 and 2002. The review, released in April 2007, found that Smith had made mistakes in 20 cases involving the deaths of children. The review cast doubt on criminal convictions in 13 of the cases.

"I am very surprised with the overall results of the review, and concerned," McLellan said. "In a number of cases, the reviewers felt that Dr. Smith had provided an opinion regarding the cause of death that was not reasonably supported by the materials available for review."

The chief coroner said the results of the review were being shared with defence and Crown attorneys involved in all of the relevant criminal cases.

After resigning from Sick Kids in 2005, Smith accepted a pathology position in Saskatoon. He was fired after three months. A tribunal later reinstated him, but without a licence, Smith was unable to practise.

Smith told media his marriage ended in light of stress from the highly publicized events. He had lived with his wife and two children on a farm north of Newmarket, Ont.

As a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Smith says he has been fuelled by his life's purpose — finding out the truth for parents who have lost babies.