Monday, January 16, 2017

Emanuel Fair: Seattle: The sub-heading gets to the heart of this troubling case involving degraded samples that contain multiple people’s DNA - such as those found at the scene of the murder..."In a grisly murder case, the defense wants to know if the DNA evidence is reliable. They’ll never find out."..."Fair’s defense attorneys sought access to TrueAllele’s 170,000 lines of source code from Cybergenetics, but Perlin refused to make the code to his proprietary software available. Revealing TrueAllele’s code, even just for review, Perlin told the court, would compromise the company’s trade secrets, potentially causing irreversible commercial damage. Fair isn’t the first defendant to question Cybergenetics’ computer program—defendants in six other states have petitioned unsuccessfully for access to their algorithmic accuser’s code."


STORY" "The Troubling case of Emanuel Fair," by Lael Henterly, published by Seattle Weekly on January 11, 2017.

SUB-HEADING: "In a grisly murder case, the defense wants to know if the DNA evidence is reliable. They’ll never find out."

GIST: "It was her first Halloween at the Valley View apartments in Redmond, and Arpana Jinaga was eager to celebrate. It was 2008, and Jinaga, an accomplished software developer, had recently moved to the area to work at a technology company. She decked out her apartment in Halloween decor and donned a red cape purchased earlier that day in anticipation of an evening spent with her neighbors. The small, three-story complex was filled with revelers that night. Costumed residents and guests milled from one unit to the next, laughing, drinking, and admiring each other’s costumes. A gregarious and gracious host, Jinaga welcomed several of her neighbors and their guests into her apartment, where they conversed and mingled before moving on to her neighbor’s apartment, where the group partook of vodka shots. By 3 a.m., the festivities were winding down. Jinaga said goodbye to the remaining guests and headed back to her apartment. That weekend Jinaga didn’t leave her apartment or contact any of her friends or family. By Monday morning her parents, far away in India, had grown worried. Jinaga’s father asked Jay, a family friend also living in the area, to stop by and check on his daughter. The door to her apartment swung open with a knock and, joined by one of Jinaga’s neighbors, Jay ventured in. The men stepped cautiously into the apartment, and immediately smelled bleach. In the bathroom a blood-stained comforter filled the bathtub; in the bedroom, charred black satin sheets; and there, sprawled on the carpet beside her bed, was the 24-year-old programmer, bloody, naked, and soaked in bleach and motor oil. Officers from the Redmond police department responded and quickly locked down the scene. The police collected samples from hundreds of items at the crime scene that could hold traces of the killer’s DNA and sent them to the state crime lab for analysis. Meanwhile, Redmond detectives began trying to whittle down the list of suspects, which initially included a number of guests from the Halloween party. Two years after the killing, the arduous investigation culminated in a charge of murder in the first degree with sexual motivation against Emanuel Fair, a friend of a woman who lived downstairs from Jinaga. Fair, who is also known as Anthony P. Parker, was at the Valley View apartments that night, one of a group of revelers who spent time with Jinaga in her apartment. Investigators believe that sometime between 3 a.m. and 8 p.m., Fair broke down Jinaga’s door, raped, beat, and strangled her, then went to great lengths to try to scrub his DNA from the scene. Whoever went to those great lengths, genetic material was left behind. Investigators were drawn to Fair because of a criminal history that includes a third-degree rape conviction, but it is the DNA that stands as the prosecution’s strongest evidence. Justice has not been swift. Six years after charges were filed, Fair, now 33, spends his days shuffling between the King County Superior Court and the county jail while his two defense attorneys fight for a fair trial, a representative jury, and the opportunity to cross-examine key witnesses. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 13, 2017, with prosecutors seeking a sentence of 45 years to life. Pretrial motions filed by Fair’s attorneys indicate that he received treatment different from that given other suspects at each step of the investigation. There is some merit to these claims. According to interrogation transcripts, for instance, the Redmond detectives cajoled the other chief suspect in the case, whereas they threatened Fair. Then there is the DNA. In recent decades, DNA evidence has become a ubiquitous crime-solving tool. The gold standard of forensic science, genetic profiles inferred from DNA evidence pave the way to exonerations, confessions, and convictions both on- and offscreen. But while single-donor DNA samples are straightforward to analyze, degraded samples that contain multiple people’s DNA—such as those found at the scene of Jinaga’s murder—are far more difficult to nail down. In fact, the DNA evidence that investigators are relying upon is of such low quality that a few years ago it would have been considered unreadable. The case against Fair hinges on the forensic evidence, some matched by humans to a genetic profile, and some more complex mixtures analyzed by TrueAllele, a probabilistic genotyping software program that relies on sophisticated algorithms to analyze DNA mixtures that humans can’t. The program runs genetic data through its 170,000 lines of code, rapidly inferring DNA profiles and delivering a likelihood ratio that indicates the odds of a match. Mark Perlin, CEO of Cybergenetics, the private company that developed TrueAllele, says the software is capable of analyzing mixture samples with six or more contributors. Only some of the more complex mixtures of DNA were sent to the Cybergenetics lab. The match statistics delivered by the software were far more definite than the numbers the state crime lab had generated when they analyzed the same samples. For example, the WSPCL found that a DNA mixture on Jinaga’s robe was 1,000 time more likely to contain Fair’s DNA than that of an unrelated African American. TrueAllele found that same sample to be 56.8 million times more likely to include Fair’s DNA. Fair’s defense attorneys sought access to TrueAllele’s 170,000 lines of source code from Cybergenetics, but Perlin refused to make the code to his proprietary software available. Revealing TrueAllele’s code, even just for review, Perlin told the court, would compromise the company’s trade secrets, potentially causing irreversible commercial damage. Fair isn’t the first defendant to question Cybergenetics’ computer program—defendants in six other states have petitioned unsuccessfully for access to their algorithmic accuser’s code. Last year a man in New York was sentenced to 15 years in prison after the software found him to be one of four, five, or six individuals who had handled a handgun recovered in a park. This is the first challenge of this type in Washington; previously, TrueAllele has been used only to exonerate, not convict. Perlin says that overall, TrueAllele has been used in 500 criminal cases since 2009. DNA evidence carries a lot of weight with juries, but experts say that mixture DNA is far less reliable than DNA from a single donor. Most of our genetic code is identical, but in some spots on each strand there are alleles—variations that differ from one person to another. To determine a DNA match, investigators compare a DNA strand’s 16 alleles; by the standards in most labs, 13 makes a match. The system is not without its flaws. In 2010 researchers Greg Hampikian and Itiel Dror gave 17 expert forensic scientists the same DNA mixture and found that the results varied wildly from one scientist to the next. Those who were given information about the criminal case the DNA evidence would be used in were more likely to find evidence that implicated suspects. Dror, a cognitive neuroscientist who worked on the study, says that it’s a mistake to think that probabilistic genotyping software is able to objectively analyze DNA mixtures. Like a human, he says, the software has to make assumptions about what is and isn’t useful information. With TrueAllele, no one but Perlin knows what those assumptions are. “Using software doesn’t solve the problem, because the human biases, assumptions, and discretions go into the software,” says Dror. “The software has human biases; to see what the biases are, we need to look at the software to see what it’s doing.”..........“The biggest issue is there is no truly independent assessment of TrueAllele or other programs,” says Amy Jeanguenat, CEO of the forensic consulting firm Mindgen. “They don’t work the same, and some are better at certain profiles and the community doesn’t know the benefits and weaknesses.” There were other leads. Marc O’Leary, a convicted serial rapist and home invader who is serving a 327-year sentence in Colorado, was active in the area at the time, attacking women in their homes in a manner eerily similar to that of Jinaga’s killer; the detectives didn’t look into the similarities. Serial killer Israel Keyes visited the Seattle area that Halloween weekend, but when the FBI asked Seattle-area law enforcement if they knew of crimes that could have been committed by Keyes, the Redmond detectives didn’t respond. Then there is the neighbor."

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/the-troubling-trial-of-emanuel-fair/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Guilty Plea Series: Part (6): Canadian cases: Anthony Hanemaayer..."After Anthony’s arrest, the Crown twice offered him a deal that would have guaranteed him less jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. But since Anthony knew he was innocent, he refused both deals, trusting that the truth would be enough. However, when the victim’s mother identified him as her daughter’s attacker, she was so persuasive in her testimony that he realized that he would probably be found guilty, even though he had done nothing wrong. His lawyer had informed him that if he were found guilty at trial, he would likely go to prison for 6-10 years. In other words, he could wind up spending his twenties behind bars.[4] On the second day of his trial, Anthony finally succumbed to the pressure to plead guilty in exchange for less prison time. It had become clearer and clearer to him that he would be found guilty at the end of his trial. His lawyer advised him to accept the Crown’s latest offer instead: if Anthony would plead guilty, he would receive less than two years in prison. Frightened and feeling hopeless, Anthony accepted this deal and agreed to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit.[5] On October 18, 1989, Anthony entered his guilty plea. He was sentenced to two years less one day of imprisonment. Anthony served eight months of this sentence before being released on parole. Since he had also spent eight months in pre-trial custody, Anthony spent a total of sixteen months in prison, despite being innocent.[6; Paul Bernardo’s Confession; As of October 17, 2005, police had reason to suspect that notorious serial killer Paul Bernardo was the real culprit."... Innocence Canada; Sarah Harland-Logan.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Guilty plea series: Part 6; Anthony Hanemaayer;  The Innocence Project has demonstrated a compelling need to expose the disturbing number of convictions in America attributed to guilty pleas rendered by innocent people in America. However, the problem of false guilty pleas is is common to many other jurisdictions, including Ontario, where I reside. I would like to make my own contribution to the Innocence Project's campaign, by running a series of posts taken from this Blog and elsewhere, which vividly  illustrates the point. (Many of the posts were based on reports by my friend and colleague the late Tracey Tyler. the Toronto Star's talented legal  affairs reporter for many years,  until her untimely death. She had no patience for miscarriages of justice.) A common factor in most of the cases in this series is the presence of former doctor Charles Smith, the namesake of this Blog. In each case, the defence lawyer  recommended a guilty plea  to a lesser offence in order to avoid the ramifications of a conviction on the more serious charge   - almost guaranteed by the now notorious former doctor's involvement in the  case - in spite of the client's protests of innocence.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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"Anthony Hanemaayer was only 19 years old when he was arrested for a crime that he did not commit. At 5:00 a.m. on September 29, 1987, an unknown man broke into a Scarborough residence and entered a 15-year-old girl’s bedroom. He jumped on top of her, put his hand over her mouth, and threatened her, claiming that he had a knife. This story could have had a much more tragic ending if not for the fact that the girl’s mother heard noise coming from the bedroom. She went to investigate and discovered the intruder. The seconds stretched out as they stared at each other. Finally, the man leapt up, raising his hands in the air and “roaring like a lion.” He fled.[1] Of course, the girl’s mother wanted to find out who had attacked her daughter. Although she had not been wearing her glasses at the time, she believed that she vividly recalled the attacker’s features – “6’0″, 170 lbs., slim build, 19 years of age with sandy brown, wavy hair, wearing a black leather jacket and blue jeans.” She thought that she would be able to identify him again, especially since as a teacher, she had to put names to her students’ faces. Even though she did not have any evidence for this belief, she decided that the perpetrator must have been “keeping watch on her daughter and on the house and likely was working on construction in the area.” She began her own investigation, driving around to look at nearby construction sites, and then phoned one of the companies whose employees were working in the area. It seemed that she might have a promising lead when someone in the personnel department said that her description of the unknown assailant sounded a lot like Anthony Hanemaayer, one of their employees. The girl’s mother called the police to let them know about the lead.[2] Over the next several weeks, the girl’s mother continued to work with police. Two months after the break-in, she picked out Anthony’s picture from a photo line-up – though she would later testify that this picture was the least sharp out of every picture she viewed. As a result of these investigations, Anthony was arrested on December 18, 1987.[3] Anthony’s Guilty Plea; After Anthony’s arrest, the Crown twice offered him a deal that would have guaranteed him less jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. But since Anthony knew he was innocent, he refused both deals, trusting that the truth would be enough. However, when the victim’s mother identified him as her daughter’s attacker, she was so persuasive in her testimony that he realized that he would probably be found guilty, even though he had done nothing wrong. His lawyer had informed him that if he were found guilty at trial, he would likely go to prison for 6-10 years. In other words, he could wind up spending his twenties behind bars.[4] On the second day of his trial, Anthony finally succumbed to the pressure to plead guilty in exchange for less prison time. It had become clearer and clearer to him that he would be found guilty at the end of his trial. His lawyer advised him to accept the Crown’s latest offer instead: if Anthony would plead guilty, he would receive less than two years in prison. Frightened and feeling hopeless, Anthony accepted this deal and agreed to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit.[5] On October 18, 1989, Anthony entered his guilty plea. He was sentenced to two years less one day of imprisonment. Anthony served eight months of this sentence before being released on parole. Since he had also spent eight months in pre-trial custody, Anthony spent a total of sixteen months in prison, despite being innocent.[6; Paul Bernardo’s Confession; As of October 17, 2005, police had reason to suspect that notorious serial killer Paul Bernardo was the real culprit. On this date, Bernardo’s lawyer emailed a member of the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit, listing 18 sexual assaults and other offences that Bernardo had committed and that he believed had not been solved. After interviewing Bernardo in April 2006 and conducting a follow-up investigation, police concluded that it was indeed Bernardo, not Anthony Hanemaayer, who had attacked the young girl. There was abundant evidence to support this conclusion. Bernardo had been living only two blocks from the girl’s home, and the time and place of the assault fit the profile of the “Scarborough Rapist” (later revealed to be Bernardo), who had preyed on many women in the area. Bernardo also recalled stealing the license plate from the victim’s family’s car. The plate read “KAR KAR,” and he had planned to present it to his wife and future co-accused, Karla Homolka, believing it would make the perfect gift.[7] The officers who followed up on Bernardo’s confession later wrote that “Paul Bernardo is the person responsible for committing this offence…. [He] provided accurate details of the offence, details that would only be known to the person responsible for committing [it].”  Inexplicably, however, police never told Anthony what had happened, and neither the police nor the Crown attempted to rectify their horrific mistake.[8] A Miscarriage of Justice' The miscarriage of justice that Anthony had suffered could easily have stayed hidden forever. Fortunately, AIDWYC lawyers James Lockyer and Joanne McLean realized what had happened to Anthony while they were reviewing disclosure that they had received on behalf of Robert Baltovich, another wrongly convicted person. While looking through these materials, James and Joanne discovered that Paul Bernardo had confessed to the crime for which Anthony pleaded guilty.[9] AIDWYC contacted Anthony in late 2007, and informed him that Bernardo had confessed to the crime that Anthony spent 18 months in jail for. AIDWYC officially took Anthony’s case in early 2008.[10] With AIDWYC’s help, Anthony filed an application with the Ontario Court of Appeal explaining that he wanted to present fresh evidence to the court – Bernardo’s confession and the follow-up police investigation – which would prove that he was innocent. The Crown agreed that given this compelling new evidence, Anthony should be acquitted. As Crown counsel Howard Leibovich put it, “The fresh evidence points to only one conclusion,” that “Paul Bernardo committed this attack.”[11] The Court of Appeal agreed, too. The judges stated that “the fresh evidence proves beyond doubt that … [Anthony] did not commit the offences to which he pleaded guilty,” and that it was “profoundly regrettable that errors in the justice system led to this miscarriage of justice and the devastating effect it has had on Mr. Hanemaayer and his family.” Moreover, the Court commented that “the story of how that happened is an important cautionary tale for the administration of criminal justice in this province.”[12] Anthony was acquitted on June 25, 2008 – over 20 years after his arrest for one of Bernardo’s many crimes. Causes of Anthony’s Wrongful Conviction: Incorrect Eyewitness Identification' Anthony’s wrongful conviction had many causes, the most important of which was the heavy reliance on the victim’s mother’s eyewitness testimony. Many people believe that eyewitness testimony is very credible but witnesses make incorrect identifications at an alarmingly high rate. The judges who acquitted Anthony noted that “mistaken eyewitness identification is the overwhelming factor leading to wrongful convictions.” In fact, of the Innocence Project’s first 225 exonerations of people who were wrongly convicted in the US, “77% of the convictions had been based on mistaken eyewitness identification.”[13]
The Court of Appeal noted that confident eyewitnesses – such as the victim’s mother in this case – are not necessarily more accurate than witnesses who are less certain: We now know that the homeowner was mistaken. No fault can be attributed to her. She honestly believed that she had identified the right person. What happened in this case is consistent with much of what is known about mistaken identification evidence and, in particular, that honest but mistaken witnesses make convincing witnesses. Even the appellant, who knew he was innocent, was convinced that the trier of fact would believe her. The research shows, however, that there is a very weak relationship between the witness’ confidence level and the accuracy of the identification.[14] One of the factors that can lead to a confident, but wrong, eyewitness identification is the fact that people “have a difficult time keeping track of where they have seen someone.” Since Anthony was working at a nearby construction site shortly before this crime was committed, it is possible that the victim’s mother actually saw him at his workplace.[15] In addition to the unavoidable frailties of eyewitness testimony, flawed police techniques for obtaining this evidence also played a part in Anthony’s wrongful conviction. The victim’s mother was given a photo array – i.e., several photos presented at once – rather than a sequential line-up, where the images are presented one at a time. This technique is dangerous, since the eyewitness may “choose the picture from the array that is the best fit,” even if none of the photos match the real perpetrator. Compounding the problem was the fact that, as noted above, Anthony’s photo was the blurriest in the set. This type of difference between one person’s photo and the others can “cause misidentifications because the person who stands out is more likely to be picked by the identifying witness.”[16] Furthermore, the police officers who conducted the line-up knew that this blurry photo was Anthony’s, and that Anthony was their current suspect. Line-ups ought to be conducted by members of the force who do not have this information, because officers who know the “right” answer may transmit this information to the eyewitness, whether they mean to or not. Furthermore, once the victim’s mother had identified Anthony from the line-up, the officers informed her that she had “indeed identified the suspect.” As the Court of Appeal judges noted, “This could only serve to increase her confidence in the accuracy of the identification and thus make her a more convincing witness.” As discussed previously, the victim’s mother’s convincing testimony played a key role in Anthony’s decision to accept a plea bargain for a crime that he did not commit.[17] Causes of Anthony’s Wrongful Conviction: Other Factors; Another cause of Anthony’s wrongful conviction was his decision to plead guilty even though he knew he was innocent. Although plea bargains are an important part of the justice system – they allow cases to move through the courts efficiently and often provide a good resolution for everyone – it is important that prosecutors only make plea agreements that are fair to the accused. The current version of the Crown Policy Manual followed by Ontario prosecutors specifies that “Crown counsel must not accept a guilty plea to a charge knowing that the accused is innocent,” or when part of the alleged offence could never be proven in court.[18] That said, there is no suggestion that the prosecutors who offered Anthony the various plea deals acted improperly, since police were not yet aware that Paul Bernardo had actually committed the crime.  However, once police officers had become aware of this information, it was their duty to inform the Crown prosecutors, who would then have been obligated to disclose the information to Anthony. As the Supreme Court set out in its 1991 decision R v Stinchcombe, the Crown is required to disclose any and all relevant documents to the defence (except for a few types of privileged materials). The fact that Anthony was kept in the dark about the existence of information that exonerated him is both shocking and disgraceful.[19];  Wounds that AIDWYC Cannot Heal;
Although Anthony has finally been able to clear his name, he will never be able to return to the life that was destroyed by his wrongful conviction. After his acquittal, Anthony described the past twenty-one years of his life as “one living hell ride.” His marriage had broken apart, not able to withstand the stress created by his arrest and the prospect of standing trial. As Anthony’s lawyer explained, Anthony has also “had to live with, and to some extent continues to live with, the label of being a convicted sex offender, even though he’s innocent.” He has endured humiliation and psychological trauma as a result of his horrific experiences.[20] Despite the irreparable damage that Anthony has suffered due to his wrongful conviction, the Ontario Attorney General announced in January 2010 that the province would not offer him any compensation, perplexingly claiming that compensation should be available only in “rare, unusual cases.” Anthony is now suing the Attorney General, the Toronto Police, and his former lawyer, alleging that all three parties acted improperly. As of November, 2013, his lawsuit is still in progress.[21] Anthony has bravely chosen to share his thoughts on his wrongful conviction in the following poem, which expresses the real price of this miscarriage of justice far better than anyone else could.[22]

“What Life?” (By Anthony Hanemaayer)
 How can a “sorry” reverse the damage done?
Within my being, the demons and ghosts haunt my every breath, my every action
A life of irreversible suffering, nightmares, shattered dreams

Faith, a distant hope, an illusion
What will become of me?
How can I look to the future when I have been robbed of all that I was?
All that I could have become?

Alone.
My life stolen.
Where is the justice? How can a wrong be made right?"

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The entire post can be found at:
https://www.aidwyc.org/cases/historical/anthony-hanemaayer/

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pedro Hernandez: New York; Bulletin; False confessions: Defence rests as Etan Patz retrial enters final month, The Villager reports. Reporter Dennis Lynch; January 12, 2017...."Hernandez, now 55, was a grocery clerk in Patz’s Soho neighborhood at the time of the child’s disappearance. He confessed to police in 2012 to kidnapping and strangling the 6-year-old on a May morning before Etan could board his school bus. But the defense has argued it was a false confession, partially due to the defendant’s low IQ and his mental issues — they say he hallucinates. Patz’s parents long believed Ramos was responsible for their son’s disappearance, but changed their minds during Hernandez’s first trial."


 "The lead defense attorney for Pedro Hernandez, the man accused of kidnapping and murdering Etan Patz in 1979, hopes his client’s trial will wrap up by the end of this month. Attorney Harvey Fishbein said so early last week, before his team rested its case earlier than expected. The defense team chose not to call to the stand three witnesses who testified in Hernandez’s previous court case, which ended last year in a mistrial. Two of them were jailhouse informants whose testimonies supported the defense’s argument that longtime suspect and convicted child molester Jose Antonio Ramos was responsible for the young Patz’s disappearance. The other witness was a former F.B.I. agent, part of the ongoing investigation in the early 1990s into Patz’s disappearance. She said that Ramos admitted to her that he could have molested Patz and sent him on an uptown subway train the day the boy went missing. The move surprised prosecutors, who had planned to ask the ex-agent about the testimony of the defense’s other two previous witnesses. Hernandez, now 55, was a grocery clerk in Patz’s Soho neighborhood at the time of the child’s disappearance. He confessed to police in 2012 to kidnapping and strangling the 6-year-old on a May morning before Etan could board his school bus. But the defense has argued it was a false confession, partially due to the defendant’s low IQ and his mental issues — they say he hallucinates. Patz’s parents long believed Ramos was responsible for their son’s disappearance, but changed their minds during Hernandez’s first trial."

Guilty Plea Series: Part (5): Canadian cases; Maria Shepherd...Her address to AIDWYC'S (Innocence Canada's) annual meeting; May 28, 2016..."I would later discharge First Counsel and retained new Counsel, J. Thomas Wiley. Wiley would immediately take steps to have my Breach of Recognizance conviction overturned. Wiley would meet with me on a regular basis and for the first time, I would start seeing the Crown’s disclosure. I continued to advise Wiley that I had done nothing to harm our daughter and profess my innocence. Wiley would take steps to obtain authorization from Legal Aid to retain other experts, one locally and one in Philadephia. Wiley would retain the first Private Investigator named Jack. The feeling of hope started to come – but it did not stay for long. The two forensic experts concurred with Smith. The first Private Investigator was actually trying to get witnesses to make statements against me. No one would challenge Smith. No one. He was the God of Paediatric Forensic Science. Hope quickly started dying. I was later convicted based upon guilty plea to save what was left of my family. With a guilty plea, it would enable me to serve my sentence in a prison close to the children. I would be able to have touch visits. I would serve a shorter sentence and be recommended for early parole. I would have a better chance of regaining custody of my children because I was showing remorse. There was no other choice. At the time I entered my guilty plea and was sentenced, I was 3 months pregnant. It was possible that I could be paroled in time to deliver my youngest daughter, Chanel. I stood a better chance of not losing another newborn if I showed remorse. Remorse for a crime I did not commit. The guilty plea was strategic. I had to enter the plea before my Mother arrived to Orangeville Court that morning, or else my mother would die watching it happen. After my mother arrived, we told her. My mother cried loudly, began falling to her knees and kept asking my lawyer, why over and over again. Her voice and cries echoing in the quiet courthouse hallway. On the day I turned myself in to start my sentence, I was handcuffed and shackled at the feet. I was wearing a black maternity dress with a burgundy bow. I would start my sentence at Metro West Detention Centre where I would have an anxiety attack with hours. I was told to tell the inmates that I was there for murdering my husband, because baby killers get killed."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Guilty Plea series: Part 5;  Canadian cases; Maria Shepherd; The Innocence Project has demonstrated a compelling need to expose the disturbing number of convictions in America attributed to guilty pleas rendered by innocent people in America. However, the problem of false guilty pleas is is common to many other jurisdictions, including Ontario, where I reside. I would like to make my own contribution to the Innocence Project's campaign, by running a series of posts taken from this Blog and elsewhere, which vividly  illustrates the point. (Many of the posts were based on reports by my friend and colleague the late Tracey Tyler. the Toronto Star's talented legal  affairs reporter for many years, until her untimely death. She had no patience for miscarriages of justice.) A common factor in many of the cases in this series is the presence of former doctor Charles Smith, the namesake of this Blog. In each case, the defence lawyer  recommended a guilty plea  to a lesser offence in order to avoid the ramifications of a conviction on the more serious charge  - almost guaranteed by the now notorious former doctor's involvement in the  case - in spite of the client's protests of innocence.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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Friday, June 3, 2016


Maria Shepherd: Ontario: "I continued to advise Wiley that I had done nothing to harm our daughter and profess my innocence. Wiley would take steps to obtain authorization from Legal Aid to retain other experts, one locally and one in Philadephia. Wiley would retain the first Private Investigator named Jack. The feeling of hope started to come – but it did not stay for long. The two forensic experts concurred with Smith. The first Private Investigator was actually trying to get witnesses to make statements against me. No one would challenge Smith. No one. He was the God of Paediatric Forensic Science. Hope quickly started dying. I was later convicted based upon guilty plea to save what was left of my family. With a guilty plea, it would enable me to serve my sentence in a prison close to the children. I would be able to have touch visits. I would serve a shorter sentence and be recommended for early parole. I would have a better chance of regaining custody of my children because I was showing remorse. There was no other choice. At the time I entered my guilty plea and was sentenced, I was 3 months pregnant. It was possible that I could be paroled in time to deliver my youngest daughter, Chanel. I stood a better chance of not losing another newborn if I showed remorse. Remorse for a crime I did not commit. The guilty plea was strategic. I had to enter the plea before my Mother arrived to Orangeville Court that morning, or else my mother would die watching it happen. After my mother arrived, we told her. My mother cried loudly, began falling to her knees and kept asking my lawyer, why over and over again. Her voice and cries echoing in the quiet courthouse hallway. On the day I turned myself in to start my sentence, I was handcuffed and shackled at the feet. I was wearing a black maternity dress with a burgundy bow. I would start my sentence at Metro West Detention Centre where I would have an anxiety attack with hours. I was told to tell the inmates that I was there for murdering my husband, because baby killers get killed. The time here would be my first encounter of a prison setting in my life."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I recently attended the  annual meeting of AIDWYC - The Association in Defence of the wrongfully convicted - and was utterly moved by the keynote address delivered by Maria Shepherd, who had been exonerated by the Ontario Court of Appeal on February 29, 2016. In that address, Maria vividly explained the impact of the wrongful prosecution in connection with the death of her beloved stepdaughter Kasandra both on herself and her family. I was riveted by her account. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I decided then and there to ask Maria if I could share her address  with the rest of our readers. I am very grateful that she agreed, in the hope that other people will be spared what she went through when the public becomes aware of her and her family's horrific experience - which tore a quarter century out of her and her family's life. I  have enclosed a note following Maria's 'story' which gives necessary on background on the some of the individuals she refers to, including a wonderful, supportive  wrongly convicted man  named Romeo Phillion, sadly now deceased,  who spent almost 32 years behind bars - and James Young,  and Jim Cairns, former Chief and Deputy Chief Coroner of Ontario,  who avoided accountability to their regulatory body, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario -  by agreeing not to practice  medicine again rather than face a disciplinary hearing - for failing to protect Maria and far too many others from having their lives destroyed by Charles Smith,

Harold Levy:  Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.



MARIA SHEPHERD'S SPEECH TO AIDWYC'S ANNUAL MEETING; DELIVERED MAY 28, 2016. (AIDWYC  HAS FORMALLY CHANGED ITS NAME TO INNOCENCE CANADA);

"Good morning everyone, I have to apologize for my husband. He left for his yearly men’s fishing trip today. He certainly deserves it. Before I commence, I would like to dedicate today to my late Mother, Maria Ibanez Crespo, who passed away due to a fall last June. On this very day, one year ago, my mother fell and succumbed to her injuries 6 days later. My mother was my biggest inspirations to be a compassionate, caring, loving and strong woman. A woman who never judged anyone. A woman with open arms and heart to all. A living angel as I always said and still say. She was a devote Catholic and always turned to her faith when in dire times. I am deeply saddened she is no longer alive to see the day of my Acquittal and also no physically present here today. I do know that she is here in spirit and her legacy lives through me. This one is for you Mom. I can finally tell our story. Today, I am also missing Romeo Phillion terribly. I know he is here with me us in spirit. My name is Maria Shepherd. I am 46 years of age, a wife of 26 years, proud mother to 5 amazing children and glowing grandmother of 3 blessed granddaughters. This is the true story about the life of my wrongful conviction for 25 years. I had spent more than half of my life known as the murderer of my own daughter (stepdaughter). I am most uncomfortable using the term stepdaughter because up until I was charged in her death, I never referred to her as my stepdaughter nor myself as her stepmother. I have always loved our Kasandra as if she were born to me. Kasandra joined our family unit after a bitter custody proceedings . A Family Court Justice , awarded interim custody to my husband. I was instrumental in initiating custody proceedings for Kasandra. She was in dire need of a healthy, steady and loving home life. My husband Ashley and I were able to provide this to her and were happy to have her home full-time. Kasandra was one and a half years old when custody was awarded to us. Indeed,  one of the happiest days of our lives. Kasandra was a funny, happy little girl who loved toys, baths, Care Bears, Barney and daycare. Her favourite song was “I’m a nut” and she loved balloons very much. In February of 1991, Kasandra seemed to have caught a flu bug. She was vomiting. We would take her to regular almost weekly visits to the doctor to try and find out what was wrong. Ultimately, Kasandra was admitted to hospital for about a month. During her stay in the hospital, Kasandra would undergo several tests to try and determine what was wrong. One of those tests was a CT SCAN. We would see some improvement but no formal findings of what was medically wrong with her. After some improvement, Kasandra was released home to us in March. One of the conditions of released was that we were to bring Kasandra to see a Neurologist for CT results. The Neurologist told us that there was a bit more space between Kasandra’s brain and skull, but not to be concerned as this was normal. No follow up visit with the Neurologist was ever scheduled. After a few weeks of being home and returning to access visits with her birth mother,  Kasandra’s vomiting would return, but with a vengeance. She began projectile vomiting, she was not able to hold down food. She would become severely lethargic at times. I would often have to hold her head up and try to feed her. It seemed like she was losing sight as she would slowly stop focusing on anything. We continued regular doctors visits and continued to seek medical advice. We were told to continue with Gravol and perhaps changing the amount and times of food. This did not help. On April 9, 1991, Kasandra experienced, what we have now learned was a petite mal seizure while in my room. Her eyes had rolled to the back of her head and she twitched briefly. She projectile vomited again. I did not know at the time that this was a seizure in a child. There was no indications prior to Kasandra’s release from the medical team that there was any concern of seizures. Even though, we had advised the medical team of previous doctors that Kasandra’s birth mother suffered from Grand Mal seizures and was on medicine for same. Specifically, Tegretol. Later on the evening of April 9, 1994, my husband had returned home from work. Shortly after his arrival, Kasandra would vomit again. My husband would bathe and change Kasandra . My husband and brought Kasandra down to the living and then suddenly, Kasandra had a Grand Mal Seizure. Her eyes rolled back into her head. Her body was jerking violently. She stopped breathing but after a friend did CPR. Kasandra began to breathe again. Paramedics arrived a short while later. One of the Paramedics strongly advised that Kasandra should be transferred to Sick Kids hospital right away. Kasandra was initially treated at Peel Memorial Hospital. It is here where we feel strongly that Kasandra was not properly cared for. Kasandra would be placed in a cubicle. My husband and I closely watching Kasandra. We could see that another seizure was starting and we would try to alert the nurses.  They did nothing to prioritize Kasandra. Kasandra would have the worst Grand Mal seizure ever. Her eyes rolled back into her head. She was squealing loudly, her back arched and body jerking violently against the gurney. This would be the last time we would see Kasandra alive. Just several days after after Kasandra’s death and funeral , the police commenced their investigation. It was clear after a while, the police were targeting me, along with the guidance of Charles Smith. One Officer, made it clear – give them what they want or else the papers would read “Stepmother kills Stepdaughter” and your children will be taken away. On the advise of close family friends of my parents, we sought out Counsel. We would ask Counsel to attend with us for polygraphs. He said he was not available but could recommend a retired RCMP Officer for a fee. We did not have the money. Despite answering all questions by the police and cooperating fully. They were no satisfied with us. My husband and I could not understand why this was happening. We had done nothing wrong to Kasandra. I was soon charged with killing Kasandra. My world quickly changed. I was quickly stripped away from my newborn, a one year old and a five year old. My Chelsea, Natasha and Jordan. They went to live with my parents. My husband stayed by my side. I was now an alleged murdered of a child.  Our child. I wanted to die. My days of pre-trial were not easy. I would initially retain first counsel through Legal Aid. First Counsel (whom I shall refer to hereinafter as “First Counsel” so as to not release the actual name) would have me convicted of Breach of Recognizance because I was several hours late to sign in with the police. Even though, I walked into the police station and explained that I had been at the cemetery earlier and had cried myself to sleep. I overslept and missed my sign in time. At the Preliminary Hearing, First Counsel did not put up an aggressive defence argument.  He did not retain any other expert witnesses to challenge Charles Smith. I have no recollection of any Charter Applications either. First Counsel never ever once showed me disclosure. First Counsel would only meet with me a handful of times and no more. First Counsel was clearly impressed and swayed by Smith. The Superhero Expert that walked into the courtroom and wooed everyone with his presence and so called knowledge was actually a Fraud with no formal training. Despite telling First Counsel of the concerns we had about the lack of care Kasandra received at Peel Memorial Hospital, he failed to ever advise me that he was actually on the Board for Peel Memorial Hospital. I would later find out while walking through the hospital one day for an unrelated reason. First Counsel had a conflict of interest from day one. I would later discharge First Counsel and retained new Counsel, J. Thomas Wiley. Wiley would immediately take steps to have my Breach of Recognizance conviction overturned. Wiley would meet with me on a regular basis and for the first time, I would start seeing the Crown’s disclosure. I continued to advise Wiley that I had done nothing to harm our daughter and profess my innocence. Wiley would take steps to obtain authorization from Legal Aid to retain other experts, one locally and one in Philadephia. Wiley would retain the first Private Investigator named Jack. The feeling of hope started to come – but it did not stay for long. The two forensic experts concurred with Smith. The first Private Investigator was actually trying to get witnesses to make statements against me. No one would challenge Smith. No one. He was the God of Paediatric Forensic Science. Hope quickly started dying. I was later convicted based upon guilty plea to save what was left of my family. With a guilty plea, it would enable me to serve my sentence in a prison close to the children. I would be able to have touch visits. I would serve a shorter sentence and be recommended for early parole. I would have a better chance of regaining custody of my children because I was showing remorse. There was no other choice. At the time I entered my guilty plea and was sentenced, I was 3 months pregnant. It was possible that I could be paroled in time to deliver my youngest daughter, Chanel. I stood a better chance of not losing another newborn if I showed remorse. Remorse for a crime I did not commit. The guilty plea was strategic. I had to enter the plea before my Mother arrived to Orangeville Court that morning, or else my mother would die watching it happen. After my mother arrived, we told her. My mother cried loudly, began falling to her knees and kept asking my lawyer, why over and over again. Her voice and cries echoing in the quiet courthouse hallway. On the day I turned myself in to start my sentence, I was handcuffed and shackled at the feet. I was wearing a black maternity dress with a burgundy bow. I would start my sentence at Metro West Detention Centre where I would have an anxiety attack with hours. I was told to tell the inmates that I was there for murdering my husband, because baby killers get killed. The time here would be my first encounter of a prison setting in my life. I would witness things in the prison that were terrifying. I was housed in Protective Custody for my own protection and safety. I would later be transferred to Vanier Centre for Women. Upon arriving I was immediately confronted and called a baby killer and was told by inmates that they have been awaiting my arrival. Although I was still receiving protection by Correctional Officers, this would quickly stop as I had to waive my right to Protective Custody in order to go to Vanier and be closer with the children. During my stay at Vanier, an inmate threated to shove a broom stick up my a…. . My life was in constant danger – at any time an inmate could attack me. There were times when knives went missing and we would be placed into lockdown – in fear the knife was meant for me. When I was eligible to apply for a Temporary Absence Pass (TAP) after I had earned it, the Superintendent of Vanier, denied my requests because he did not like me because of my conviction and circumstances around it.  With the help of a Liasion Worker, I was later allowed to go home initially for one day. I would later apply to the Parole Board for early Parole. Although I had to once again accept responsibility for Kasandra’s death in order to qualify for parole, I was denied because they said I cried too much and was emotionally unstable. I was later released on day Parole. I was released to a half way house in March of 1993. I would give birth to my baby and we would be separated. I was not allowed to be alone with any of my children. By June of 1993, I was released on full parole. It was a good feeling to be back in the community . I would continue the fight of my life. Now it was time to start rebuilding my family and headed to family Court. After approximately 3 years, I had won and my husband and I were given back our autonomy. The Family Court Justice could see that there was nothing the CAS was reporting that indicated that I was a risk to my children. For the first time in several years, my family and I could be together again. Shortly after my release, I was hired by defence Counsel, Wiley to work in his law office as a receptionist. It later blossomed into several years working for the law firm which consisted of 4 criminal lawyers. I later went on as an unregulated Paralegal. This went well for awhile until I received a call in 2006… Charles Smith had been caught. He was a fraud.  A great sense of elation but great sadness once again. My case was being reviewed as a wrongful conviction – for the first time I had hope that my innocence would now be known. Then again, my world fell apart. My emotions were overwhelming. I slipped into a deep depression. The feeling of grief over losing Kasandra had been quiet and lonely. With the reopening of the case, all the emotions came rushing in. Happiness, sadness, grief and sorrow. When Wiley told my a Mr. James Lockyer wished to meet with me, I was dumbfounded…I said “who is James Lockyer ?” and what is AIDWYC. I had not known all those years that AIDWYC had even existed. After meeting with Mr. Lockyer, I later met with Win Wahrer and then began attending events with AIDWYC. Another downfall came when the Law Society was going to regulate Paralegals. I would not qualify because of my conviction. My profession I had worked so hard for was gone. There was no more income until I was able to find a job working in a clothing store. A Coroner’s Inquest was held in approximately 1997. It was crucifying. I was subjected to once again having to admit I had killed Kasandra. I was on parole and did not want to risk having my parole revoke for recanting my remorse. I was the City’s scapegoat. They got away with it. From 1993 – present, I always maintained a sense of hope that I could prove my innocence. During these years I watched my entire family suffer including my mother and father. Regardless of all the challenges, I always maintained hope. My mother always taught me to pray and be patient for God to answer.  He did on Leap Year, Lead Day – February 29, 2016. But also through those years, I watched my daughter run home from elementary school crying because of an article in the newspaper about me that her fellow classmate brought to school. I watched my son, cry and cry for me. Watched my children grow up with a mother known as a convicted murderer of their sister. It has many times almost taken my life. My depression led to medications that led to attempts and thoughts of suicide. The shame and embarrassment of being a convicted murderer. The failure at my profession. I have also been in therapy with a Forensic Psychologist for the last 10 years. On the eve of my Acquittal. It was just before midnight. Jordan, my eldest son, asked me to go for a walk across from the hotel. We walked and then sat in the rain in front of the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips square – for the first time he told me his biggest fear… a fear of one day coming home from school and finding his mother hanging dead because she had given up. This will always haunt me. What still hurts and angers me deeply today is that I had to sacrifice half my life to preserve my family for a crime I never committed. Yet, the perpetrators like Smith, Cairns, Young and the police Officers walk free of any criminal accountability for taking our lives for a quarter of a century. Since when is Fraud and misconducted in criminal proceedings not a crime ? There must be a way. I am not the only victims, there are many and we deserve the right to see criminal accountability where it rightfully belongs. Even though you are acquitted, the stain will always be there. Even after my acquittal, when media published me story on social media, there were hurtful comments like “ she should have gotten the electric chair…opps” and she should be “raped, murdered and dumped”. In closing, I would like you all to know that it is very difficult to summarize 25 years of pain and agony in less than an hour, but there is much to tell and it will come out with the release of a book  that is in the works by my dear friend and writer, Frank Monaco. I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone at AIDWYC and all the volunteers for all that you have done for myself, my family and other wrongly convicted. I will now always call you Angels of Justice. A special thank you to Mr. Lockyer and my legal team to for their tireless work and dedication. For believing in my innocence and finally helping me to prove it.  To Win Wahrer, thank you for all the seemlingly endless hours of counselling, love and support and especially standing in for my mom on the day of my acquittal. My son is here today as living proof that children of the wrongly convicted also suffer deeply, but they too also come out to be the next generation of crusaders against Wrongful Convictions. I choose hope – I am now on my way to becoming a Licensed Paralegal – only a few more steps to take. I hope I can educate others with my experience and also bring hope to others wrongly convicted. Hope never dies – even when you think it has. It doesn’t. The wrongly convicted must hold on to faith, for it is always there. We owe our lives to all of you. For me, with the Grace of God and on the wings of Kasandra and my Mother, I will continue this fight to correct and prevent wrongful convictions. Water is one of the strongest elements in the world. One raindrop makes a ripple, but many raindrops makes an ocean. Let the ocean flow, please join AIDWYC today or donate to the cause. One conviction is too many. There are many we need to save now." 


http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2016/06/maria-shepherd-ontario-i-continued-to.html

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 PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Book Review: "Death in the Family," by John Chipman; (Penguin/Random House); Reviewed by Harold Levy; Publisher; "The Charles Smith Blog."..."While working on the Smith story for almost 15 years, I did my best to channel the simmering anger I felt at seeing so many grieving parents and caregivers turned into child killers as Smith manufactured murder where none existed. But as Chipman drew me deeper and deeper into the lives of people affected - like Bill Mulllins-Johnson, Lianne Thibeault, Tammy Marquardt, Brenda Waudby, the baby sitter in Timmins, Anthony Kporwodu and Angela Veno – I found my simmering anger turning into near rage. (This is the first book I have read in years that proved capable of moving me so profoundly)."


Almost ten years ago, Justice Stephen Goudge released his report on his Inquiry into many of former doctor Charles Smith’s cases.

During this time, I have been hoping that a seasoned journalist would write a definitive  book  on Smith and the impact he had on his victims, their families and Ontario’s criminal justice system.

Fortunately, that challenge has been taken on by CBC producer John Chipman, author of  “Death in the Family” published earlier this month by  Penguin/Random House.

Having devoted several years to the research and writing of this book,  Chipman demonstrates an ability to approach his task dispassionately  while  leaving the reader in no doubt about the outrageous betrayal of Smith’s victims by the institutions that were supposed to protect them.

The list includes the crusading “think dirty’  Chief Coroner’s Office,  the zealous Hospital for Sick Children (Smith’s employer), The College of Physicians and Surgeons (his  oh-so-weak regulator),  incompetent police officers,  prosecutors who paraded Smith before the courts as if he were a forensic  ‘God’, heavy-handed children’s aid societies,  and those media who chose to glorify Smith and help him transform himself from a nonentity to the celebrated Dr. Charles Randal Smith.

While working on the Smith story for almost 15 years, I did my best to channel the simmering anger I felt at seeing so many grieving parents and caregivers  turned into child killers as Smith manufactured murder where none existed.

But as Chipman drew me deeper and deeper  into  the lives of  people affected  - like Bill Mulllins-Johnson,  Lianne Thibeault,  Tammy Marquardt, Brenda Waudby, the baby sitter in  Timmins, Anthony Kporwodu and   Angela Veno – I found my simmering anger turning into near rage. (This is the first book I have read in years that  proved capable of moving me so profoundly).

I challenge anyone not to feel the same seering  emotions  when reading one of the chapter in which  Tammy Marquardt (an innocent woman whose son died of  disease)    arrives, as a convicted child murderer (thanks to Charles Smith),  at the maximum-security Prison for Women.

“After intake , the new inmates were taken  to  see the OIC, or the officer-in-charge. His name was Barry McGuinness, and he had some words of advice for Tammy. “If you want that child to live,” he said, pointing to her stomach, “you don’t  tell anyone  what you’re in here  for.”

It had never occurred to Tammy that none of the other  inmates  would know what she was in for. She asked McGuinness what she should say if  people asked.

“Tell them you killed your husband,”  he said.

It was good advice, crucial advice; advice he didn’t have to give her. She was never sure whether he told her for her baby’s sake, for her own safety or to save himself the trouble of dealing with the aftermath if an inmate tried to beat her to death.”

Also riveting  is Chipman’s account of Marquardt’s  first meeting with one of P4W’s  most famous inmates at the time.

“Hi, I’m Karla,” a bubbly  Homolka said outside  Tammy’s cell. “If  you need anything, just holler up and I’ll get it for you .”

Tammy only nodded. She couldn’t bring herself to respond.”

After finishing my read of  ‘Death in the family,’   I was struck by how much I had learned -  and how much more I understood  - even though I had been researching and writing about Smith for more than 15 years.

Indeed, ‘Death in the Family’  contains a revelation, that took me totally by surprise, in which Chipman, using his investigative talents, provides a credible non-criminal  explanation of a baby’s death, which may have  eluded death investigators, police, prosecutors, the parents themselves – and even their lawyers.

This is breath-taking.

It’s Canadian journalism at its best.

A review of a 400-page book can scarcely do justice to its subject matter – especially when each one of  the cases discussed could have been a book in itself.

One of the questions most asked about Smith, is how a man who purported  be a good Christian and to love the little children,   could have  lied, twisted, distorted, perjured,  ‘lost’ evidence which showed his opinions were wrong,  destroyed  lives, and brought discredit to Ontario’s criminal justice system.

Chipman wisely avoids the usual psychobabble with which people have attempted to explain Smith  - an immensely private man – as he focuses instead on how Smith was perceived through his victim’s eyes.  Most had never heard of Charles Smith before their loved one  died.

Now they will never forget him.

Death in the family’ is a  marvelous, timely, humane, gripping read, loaded with insight,  and shedding light on  one of the most egregious series of miscarriages of justice in Ontario’s history.

Go for it!

To order:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Kevin Keith; Forensic scientist Michele G. Yezzo; Ohio; The convicted triple murderer's application for a new trial - based on Yezzo's credibility has been dismissed, "The 53-year-old Keith has consistently denied he was the shooter.........The state said Keith opened fire on a group in retaliation for a drug arrest he blamed on an informant related to the shooting victims. The most recent request for a new trial surrounded the credibility of Bureau of Criminal Identification Forensic Scientist Michele Yezzo. Keith's attorneys sought a new trial stating Yezzo's testimony linked Keith to the crime scene. Keith's attorney's noted that in Yezzo's personnel file she was reprimanded in a separate case because her "interpretational and observational errors" were "failures that could lead to a substantial miscarriage of justice."... Reporter Larry Phillips; Crawford Source. January 13, 2017;


"Convicted triple murderer Kevin Keith's application for a new trial was denied Friday by Crawford County Common Pleas Court Judge Sean E. Leuthold.........Keith, of Crestline, was convicted in the 1994 aggravated murder of three people and the attempted murder of three more at Bucyrus Estates. He was sentenced to death. But just two weeks before his scheduled execution, Keith received a commutation (reduction) of his sentence by Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010. That commutation came in spite of a parole board's 8-0 recommendation to carry out the sentence. The 53-year-old Keith has consistently denied he was the shooter.........The state said Keith opened fire on a group in retaliation for a drug arrest he blamed on an informant related to the shooting victims. The most recent request for a new trial surrounded the credibility of Bureau of Criminal Identification Forensic Scientist Michele Yezzo. Keith's attorneys sought a new trial stating Yezzo's testimony linked Keith to the crime scene. Keith's attorney's noted that in Yezzo's personnel file she was reprimanded in a separate case because her "interpretational and observational errors" were "failures that could lead to a substantial miscarriage of justice.".........This was the fifth time Keith requested a new trial and the fifth time the motion was either denied or withdrawn."
http://www.richlandsource.com/crawford_source/crawford-county-court-denies-new-trial-for-triple-murderer-kevin/article_147002a0-d9d5-11e6-a926-cf70ea8965d4.html

Guilty Plea series: Part (4): Richard Brant: Tracey Tyler story (May 4, 2011) on Richard Brant's exoneration - and the circumstances of his guilty plea. "Brant said he felt pressured to plead guilty to a reduced charge in connection with Dustin's death after his trial lawyer told him Smith’s opinions were considered unassailable and he could get up to 15 years if convicted of manslaughter, the original charge. That was the choice facing many parents who were victims of Smith’s mistakes, James Lockyer, Brant’s appeal lawyer, told the court. A review by the Office of the Chief Coroner found Smith botched 20 child autopsies. Prior to a 2008 public inquiry into the debacle, four people had charges withdrawn or were otherwise exonerated. Since the inquiry, convictions have been quashed in five cases. Others are before the courts. Brant said learning Smith had been proven wrong in his case left him angry, happy and confused about how such a highly-regarded “professional” could mess up so badly. “That’s not a little wee mistake,” he said Wednesday. “That’s a life mistake. It (pertains) to lives he’s destroyed.”


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Guilty plea series: Part 4;  Richard Brant:  The Innocence Project has demonstrated a compelling need to expose the disturbing number of convictions in America attributed to guilty pleas rendered by innocent people in America. However, the problem of false guilty pleas is is common to many other jurisdictions, including Ontario, where I reside. I would like to make my own contribution to the Innocence Project's campaign, by running a series of posts taken from this Blog and elsewhere, which vividly  illustrates the point. (Many of the posts were based on reports by my friend and colleague the late Tracey Tyler. the Toronto Star's talented legal  affairs reporter for many years, until her untimely death. She had no patience for miscarriages of justice.) A common factor in many of the cases in this series is the presence of former doctor Charles Smith, the namesake of this Blog. In each case, the defence lawyer  recommended a guilty plea  to a lesser offence in order to avoid the ramifications of a conviction on the more serious charge  - almost guaranteed by the now notorious former doctor's involvement in the  case - in spite of the client's protests of innocence.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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Conviction quashed in case involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith
The Ontario Court of Appeal has quashed the aggravated assault conviction of a man who pathologist Charles Smith said shook his baby to death.

Richard Brant outside the Ontario Court of Appeal Wednesday, May 4, 2011 after his aggravated assault conviction relating to the death of his 2-month-old son Dustin was overturned.  (LUCAS OLENIUK / TORONTO STAR) | Order this photo  
"Having been wrongly convicted for the death of his son — then jailed, shunned and driven out of Ontario — Richard Brant is one of the more visible victims of pathologist Charles Smith’s incompetence.
But Mary Farrell, the child’s mother, also paid a heavy price for Brant’s 1993 conviction and her belief in his innocence.
Her two-year-old daughter was taken away from her and Farrell battled her own mother for custody, making for a relationship that remained strained until the elder woman’s death last December.
“We lost our son,” said Farrell, 40. Yet police “treated us like criminals. We were loving young parents.”
The former couple, who hadn’t seen each other in 16 years, was reunited in Toronto Wednesday before the Ontario Court of Appeal quashed Brant’s conviction for aggravated assault in connection with the death of their two-month-old son, Dustin.
Brant was out for a walk with the child in Belleville on Nov. 17, 1992 when he bumped into a distant relative on the street and lifted the plastic rain cover on a stroller to show off his newborn.
What he found was the boy in distress, with what appeared to be red foam around his mouth.
A police officer who witnessed the incident from his cruiser at a nearby stoplight confirmed that Brant appeared genuinely surprised and upset by the condition of the child, who died in hospital two days later.
Yet investigators suspected he was responsible and that drops of red liquid found in the family’s home were blood. They turned out to be cough syrup.
Undeterred, police brought in the heavy artillery in the form of Smith, who concluded Dustin died of blunt force trauma to the head, likely caused by shaking.
But fresh evidence from forensic experts who recently reviewed the autopsy findings shows there is nothing to support Smith’s opinion, the court was told on Wednesday.
Instead, the evidence suggests Dustin died of natural causes, likely pneumonia, the same conclusion reached by the neuropathologist who performed the autopsy before Smith arrived on the scene.
It was, said Justice Marc Rosenberg, a “miscarriage of justice.”
“It lifts a great weight off my shoulder,” Brant, 38, said Wednesday. “This just destroyed me.”
Brant said after serving a six-month jail sentence, he was shunned by neighbours on the Tyendinaga reserve, near Belleville.
The experience shattered his relationship with Farrell, despite her belief in his innocence. He moved to Montreal with a new girlfriend, then to Moncton to start a new life.
Later convicted of a robbery, he was paroled two days ago.
Brant said he felt pressured to plead guilty to a reduced charge in connection with Dustin's death after his trial lawyer told him Smith’s opinions were considered unassailable and he could get up to 15 years if convicted of manslaughter, the original charge.
That was the choice facing many parents who were victims of Smith’s mistakes, James Lockyer, Brant’s appeal lawyer, told the court.
A review by the Office of the Chief Coroner found Smith botched 20 child autopsies. Prior to a 2008 public inquiry into the debacle, four people had charges withdrawn or were otherwise exonerated. Since the inquiry, convictions have been quashed in five cases. Others are before the courts.
Brant said learning Smith had been proven wrong in his case left him angry, happy and confused about how such a highly-regarded “professional” could mess up so badly.
“That’s not a little wee mistake,” he said Wednesday. “That’s a life mistake. It (pertains) to lives he’s destroyed.”
https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2011/05/04/conviction_quashed_in_case_involving_disgraced_pathologist_charles_smith.html

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See Innocence  Canada summary of this case by Sarah Harland-Logan at the link below...Richard knew that he was innocent; but he also knew that he would face a stiff sentence if he were found guilty of manslaughter. Charles Smith would be the prosecution’s star witness, and Richard’s lawyer had told him that Smith was viewed as “the king” of his field. His compelling testimony could easily lead to a conviction, and Richard could spend up to fifteen years in jail.[8] In addition, Richard and Mary had separated, unable to bear the tragedy of Dustin’s death together; and Richard’s new partner, Lynne, was expecting a baby. Having just lost his first child, he could not bear the thought of not being part of this new baby’s life.[9] However, Richard had another option. After his preliminary hearing – where he had realized just “how much trouble … [he] was in” – the Crown prosecutor offered him a plea bargain. If Richard agreed to plead guilty to aggravated assault, then he could expect to spend only six to nine months in jail. Richard’s lawyer urged him to accept this offer. Richard agonized over what to do.[10] On April 21, 1995, Richard pled guilty to aggravated assault. He was sentenced to six months in prison.[11] After his release, Richard was ostracized by members of his community, who believed that he had killed his newborn baby. Richard soon moved to Montreal, and then to Moncton, hoping to start a new life.[12] Pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit was the hardest decision of Richard’s life. Years later, he would file an affidavit – part of his effort to clear his name – in which he explained that “I did nothing to cause Dustin’s death and I still grieve for him. I never did anything to hurt my son…. I did not cause Dustin’s death or assault him in any way, and pled guilty because I felt I had no other realistic option.”
https://www.aidwyc.org/cases/historical/richard-brant/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;