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Disgraced pathologist Charles Smith pleads no contest

Smith’s inaccurate court testimony sent innocent people to jail


 

Dr. Charles Smith, the disgraced pathologist whose inaccurate court testimony on more than a dozen baby and child deaths sent innocent people to jail, has pleaded “no contest” for his conduct. Though he did not attend a disciplinary hearing Tuesday, through his lawyer, he admitted to unprofessional and incompetent acts. The hearing was told that Smith blamed others for his mistakes, exaggerated his experience and offered opinions outside his expertise. A public inquiry three years ago shed light on his misguided work, and he has not practised medicine since August 2008. During his testimony before the inquiry, Smith said his errors were not intentional. Carolyn Silver, speaking for the college, said Smith failed in “multiple cases” to gather “relevant information.” She added: “Dr. Smith expressed opinions … that were either contrary to, or not supported by, the evidence. These failures compromised the administration of justice.”

The Globe and Mail


 
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Disgraced pathologist Charles Smith pleads no contest

  1. I want more information. This story is contually presented as if Dr Smith made clear and obvious errors – but did he? Or did professional review make the finding in a balance of probabilities that he was wrong? How exact is the science of "forensic pathology?" Dr Smith certainly was trained and very experienced in the field – so whose opinion is right, who is wrong and to what degree can we ever be sure of expert testimony in cases of shaken infant death? Dr Smith was found to have made errors in 13 cases. Are these errors technical, in such a way that a guilty party may be wrongly exonerated? Were some of his errors, errors in the other direction: did his testimony free guilty parties and will these (to be proven) guilty parties be re-tried? Emotions are high, of course, but I would like to see a little more discussion of how, e.g., others practice in this very challenging field and how confident others are in their diagnoses, and what sort of professional review their decisions are subjected to (if any).

  2. I want more information. This story is contually presented as if Dr Smith made clear and obvious errors – but did he? Or did professional review make the finding in a balance of probabilities that he was wrong? How exact is the science of "forensic pathology?" Dr Smith certainly was trained and very experienced in the field – so whose opinion is right, who is wrong and to what degree can we ever be sure of expert testimony in cases of shaken infant death? Dr Smith was found to have made errors in 13 cases. Are these errors technical, in such a way that a guilty party may be wrongly exonerated? Were some of his errors, errors in the other direction: did his testimony free guilty parties and will these (to be proven) guilty parties be re-tried? Emotions are high, of course, but I would like to see a little more discussion of how, e.g., others practice in this very challenging field and how confident others are in their diagnoses, and what sort of professional review their decisions are subjected to (if any).

    • Dr. Smith, in at least one case sent a man to prison for the sexual assault and murder of his niece. When other pathologists looked at the evidence many years later, it became obvious that Dr. Smith had drawn conclusions that were not correct. The marks on the girls throat/chest were normal mottling & signs of CPR – not of murder. The signs of sexual assault were not there either. Dr. Smith did this on numerous occasions during his career. He gave testimony that the evidence did not support. If the police wanted it to be murder, he said it was murder…..

      • Interesting. Thanks for that.

        • With regard to the case that I mentioned earlier, not only did the man who was convicted spend many years in prison but his sister-in-law and the siblings of the child who died are still certain he killed the little girl. Despite the fact that every other pathologist who was approached said Dr. Smith was wrong in his conclusions, this family cannot accept that he was wrong.

          • What a nightmare. It makes me wonder about all the cases which are "solved" based on only one piece, or a few pieces of contestable evidence. Especially when human interpretation is involved. The CSI franchise tells the lie that forensic science is always if not overwhelmingly accurate, then powerfully convincing. Oh, yeah? Wait to real world lawyers, and ambitious cops and judges get a look at it.

  3. Charles Smith was only part of the reason/cause why innocent people had their lives ruined.

    Overzealous (in terms of getting convictions) and lax (in terms of verifying evidence) Crown Attorneys and Police should also be sharing some of the blame in my view.

    Who were the Crown Attorneys and Police Officers involved with these wrongful convictions?

  4. Charles Smith was only part of the reason/cause why innocent people had their lives ruined.

    Overzealous (in terms of getting convictions) and lax (in terms of verifying evidence) Crown Attorneys and Police should also be sharing some of the blame in my view.

    Who were the Crown Attorneys and Police Officers involved with these wrongful convictions?

  5. Dr. Smith, in at least one case sent a man to prison for the sexual assault and murder of his niece. When other pathologists looked at the evidence many years later, it became obvious that Dr. Smith had drawn conclusions that were not correct. The marks on the girls throat/chest were normal mottling & signs of CPR – not of murder. The signs of sexual assault were not there either. Dr. Smith did this on numerous occasions during his career. He gave testimony that the evidence did not support. If the police wanted it to be murder, he said it was murder…..

  6. You might be partially right that the Crown Attorneys and Police were somewhat to blame but only in so far as they did not question WHY this particular pathologist always got them the results they needed to get a conviction. As a professional, Dr. Smith was supposed to testify as to exactly what the evidence revealled. He instead, made the evidence fit the story that the police thought was the right one. If he had been honest and said to them that the evidence did not support their theory, they would have had to keep looking elsewhere to solve the crimes or admit THERE WAS NO CRIME, which was often the case. This man sent innocent people to jail when no crime had been committed.

  7. Interesting. Thanks for that.

  8. With regard to the case that I mentioned earlier, not only did the man who was convicted spend many years in prison but his sister-in-law and the siblings of the child who died are still certain he killed the little girl. Despite the fact that every other pathologist who was approached said Dr. Smith was wrong in his conclusions, this family cannot accept that he was wrong.

  9. What a nightmare. It makes me wonder about all the cases which are "solved" based on only one piece, or a few pieces of contestable evidence. Especially when human interpretation is involved. The CSI franchise tells the lie that forensic science is always if not overwhelmingly accurate, then powerfully convincing. Oh, yeah? Wait to real world lawyers, and ambitious cops and judges get a look at it.

  10. You may be interested to read Derek Finkle's excellent "No Claim to Mercy" about how the investigation police sculpted the narrative which would result in Robert Baltovich's wrongful conviction for the murder of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain. They excluded exculpatory evidence and ignored other leads – because they were sure, because they "had a gut feeling." It comes as no surprise that a forensic pathologist can play a role in such story especially in all the areas of expert testimony (e.g. psychiatric) which are highly subjective and have at least questionable reliability.

  11. You may be interested to read Derek Finkle's excellent "No Claim to Mercy" about how the investigation police sculpted the narrative which would result in Robert Baltovich's wrongful conviction for the murder of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain. They excluded exculpatory evidence and ignored other leads – because they were sure, because they "had a gut feeling." It comes as no surprise that a forensic pathologist can play a role in such story especially in all the areas of expert testimony (e.g. psychiatric) which are highly subjective and have at least questionable reliability.

  12. Just to comment on a few things; Mr. Smith was careless and a disgrace to the profession of Medicine. He was NOT trained in the field of Pediatric Forensic Pathology and therefore should not have been practicing nor giving 'expert opinion' in that field. Mr. Smith was unable to act as an unbiased pathologist and subsequently acted as somewhat of an advocate for deceased children in a search to find parents responsible for the tragedy. I am sure that there were patients for whom Mr. Smith cared for as he should have, however, the intentional ruining of lives is unacceptable. He himself stated that he was not trained therefore not suitable to be in the position that he would. There are others that should also be held responsible as he did not act alone and was employed by individuals who did not do thier due dilligence to society as they should have done and were expected to do. The saddest part is that his victims will live with the effects of his carelessness and incompetance for the rest of thier lives while he enjoys the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made by conning his way to a 'God-Like' figure in the Ontario and Canadian society.

  13. Just to comment on a few things; Mr. Smith was careless and a disgrace to the profession of Medicine. He was NOT trained in the field of Pediatric Forensic Pathology and therefore should not have been practicing nor giving 'expert opinion' in that field. Mr. Smith was unable to act as an unbiased pathologist and subsequently acted as somewhat of an advocate for deceased children in a search to find parents responsible for the tragedy. I am sure that there were patients for whom Mr. Smith cared for as he should have, however, the intentional ruining of lives is unacceptable. He himself stated that he was not trained therefore not suitable to be in the position that he would. There are others that should also be held responsible as he did not act alone and was employed by individuals who did not do thier due dilligence to society as they should have done and were expected to do. The saddest part is that his victims will live with the effects of his carelessness and incompetance for the rest of thier lives while he enjoys the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made by conning his way to a 'God-Like' figure in the Ontario and Canadian society.

  14. Does this mean another loophole is now to be used for defence? Who did it, the butler? How was it done? Can we prove it? No. People that don't want to believe will not believe that their family or friend could do such a thing. Others are just copping a plea hoping for a mistake to set them free.
    The scary thing is that prisoners can vote. A prisoner can have his record expunged. When I'm sitting at a coffee house I wonder about strangers wanting to start a conversation with me.
    In between the powerful corporations and gangs are the sheep.

  15. Does this mean another loophole is now to be used for defence? Who did it, the butler? How was it done? Can we prove it? No. People that don't want to believe will not believe that their family or friend could do such a thing. Others are just copping a plea hoping for a mistake to set them free.
    The scary thing is that prisoners can vote. A prisoner can have his record expunged. When I'm sitting at a coffee house I wonder about strangers wanting to start a conversation with me.
    In between the powerful corporations and gangs are the sheep.

  16. Dr. Smith had no formal training in pediatric forensic pathology. None was even offered in Ontario until 2008. Smith himself stated at the Goudge Inquiry that he was "woefully inept". The big question is why the CPSO allowed Smith to continue proffering unquaified expert testimony in pediatric forensic pathology even after it had to have been aware that Smith was unqualified. The CPSO had received two complaints about Smith early on that resulted in Smith being confidentially "cautioned" by the College. Surely their investigation would have revealed Smith's lack of formal training. So why did the College allow Smith to continue? Seems to me the CPSO displayed every bit as much "ineptitude" as did Smith. The CPSO was way too late in revoking Smith's lisence and thus proved itself useless in protecting the public from Smith (ditto in the Wai Ping debacle – ditto in the Austin debacle). The CPSO has managed to invert its mandate of protecting the pubic to protecting its members from accountibility (at least for as long as stalling and stonewalling will work).

  17. Dr. Smith had no formal training in pediatric forensic pathology. None was even offered in Ontario until 2008. Smith himself stated at the Goudge Inquiry that he was "woefully inept". The big question is why the CPSO allowed Smith to continue proffering unquaified expert testimony in pediatric forensic pathology even after it had to have been aware that Smith was unqualified. The CPSO had received two complaints about Smith early on that resulted in Smith being confidentially "cautioned" by the College. Surely their investigation would have revealed Smith's lack of formal training. So why did the College allow Smith to continue? Seems to me the CPSO displayed every bit as much "ineptitude" as did Smith. The CPSO was way too late in revoking Smith's lisence and thus proved itself useless in protecting the public from Smith (ditto in the Wai Ping debacle – ditto in the Austin debacle). The CPSO has managed to invert its mandate of protecting the pubic to protecting its members from accountibility (at least for as long as stalling and stonewalling will work).

  18. there are a lot of inept and unprofessional lawyers who need to be strung up, too, over this.

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