TORONTO – Monday’s acquittal of Maria Shepherd marked the end of a 25-year nightmare and another sorry chapter in the story of Dr. Charles Smith.
The once-distinguished pediatric forensic pathologist provided compelling evidence that helped convict Shepherd in the 1991 death of her three-year-old stepdaughter.
Yet Shepherd’s case proved to be yet another example of Smith’s discredited work, which led to a miscarriage of justice.
A 2008 inquiry on Smith’s work condemned his “flawed approach” and noted the he “lacked the requisite training and qualifications” to work as pediatric forensic pathologist.
Smith’s findings had helped convict more than a dozen people, some of whom spent years in prison and lost access to their children.
The Sault Ste. Marie man spent 12 years in prison after Smith’s reports helped convict him of sodomizing and strangling his four-year-old niece in 1993.
Experts who later reviewed the case found the girl had died from natural causes, and found Smith had lost key evidence that might have proved as much.
Mullins-Johnson was released in 2005, later cleared of all charges and was awarded $4.25 million in 2010.
Kumar was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after Smith ruled his young son had been shaken to death in 1992 and it took nearly 20 years to fully exonerate him of the crime.
Kumar’s own lawyer recommended a plea deal since the testimony of Smith – who Kumar’s lawyer said was “like a god” in court – would very likely lead to a murder conviction and later deportation.
The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned his conviction in 2011.
Convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her seven-year-old daughter, Louise Reynolds spent two years in jail before Smith’s damning findings were later discredited.
Reynolds’ daughter was found dead with more 80 wounds, which Smith attributed to a knife or scissors, not the pit bull living in the house at the time. Later examinations found the wounds consistent with dog bites and the murder charge was withdrawn in 2001.
The Kingston, Ont. resident launched a lawsuit against local police and later reached a settlement with the Ontario government.
The young Sudbury mother was never charged after her 11-month-old son’s death in 1995, but Smith’s finding that the boy’s death was non-accidental led child welfare officials to seize her other son, leading to a long and costly legal battle.
It took two years to clear Gagnon, after other pathologists determined her son had died of accidental causes after going into cardiac arrest.
The Scarborough native’s family was torn apart beginning with the death of her two-year-old son in 1993. After she was convicted of murder, her two other sons were seized by child welfare authorities and eventually adopted by other families.
Marquardt spent 14 years in prison before being freed on bail in 2009. In 2011, an Ontario court overturned her conviction, condemning Smith’s “flawed pathology” and saying her case “was a miscarriage of justice.”