The egregious actions and abysmal failures of Dr. Charles Randal Smith have disgraced the entire medical profession. At least that’s what the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons stated on March 25, 2011 at the college. Smith chose not to attend the summation of his crooked practice. He had been stripped of his medical licence one month before the dress-down. Smith was arrested on several charges that destroyed innocent people’s lives and devastated their families. Over several years, Smith’s mistakes and uninformed diagnoses resulted in people being wrongly convicted of killing children, Some innocent people have spent as many a 14 years in jail. He failed to gather relevant information and conduct appropriate investigations. He referenced social situations of parents that were irrelevant, and gave unscientific, speculative and unsubstantiated opinions, He was one lazy son of a bitch.
Tammy Marquardt, the only one of Smith’s victims. Marquardt spent 14 years in prison after she was convicted in 1995 of killing her son, two-year-old Kenneth Wynne. Her conviction was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal. “Personally I’d like to see him to go jail, at least feel a little bit of what we felt: fear for your life on a daily basis,” Marquardt said. “Live your life on a constant fight or flight and tell me how your body’s going to hold up to that.”When Smith appeared before the Goudge inquiry into pediatric forensic pathology, he apologized and said his errors weren’t intentional.
On a typical case, he might have to decide whether a child had been shaken to death or accidentally fallen from a high chair. 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. 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. 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.
That inquiry, led by Justice Stephen Goudge and concluding in October 2008, found that Smith “actively misled” his superiors, “made false and misleading statements” in court and exaggerated his expertise in trials.
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. In December 2009, Sherry Sherrett-Robinson was acquitted of killing her son whom Smith had concluded died of asphyxia a decade earlier. Smith suggested Sherrett-Robinson’s son, Joshua, suffered a skull fracture and neck hemorrhages. Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Pollanen, however, told the Ontario Court of Appeal that he did not find a skull fracture and noted the neck hemorrhages were caused during the autopsy process.
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. Brenda Waudby was wrongly accused of killing her 21-month-old daughter Jenna in 1997. A pubic-like hair found on her daughter disappeared 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, the charges against Waudby were dropped and the child’s babysitter was convicted.
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 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.
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.
Maureen Laidley was charged with killing Tyrell Salmon, the three-year-old son of her boyfriend. Laidley says the boy had jumped off the couch, slipped and struck his head on a marble coffee table, but was arrested after Smith informed them that such injuries could not result in death. The charge was abruptly stayed when outside experts testified that the injuries were fully consistent with Laidley’s account
On the morning of January 23, 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 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 eight 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. Later exhumation of the child and examination of the skull have shown that there was no skull fracture. It is thought Dr. Smith confused the normal gap between the baby’s skull plates for an injury. On Dec. 7, 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal exonerated Sherret, stating that it was “profoundly regrettable that due to flaws in pathological evidence” she was wrongfully convicted
Anthony Kporwodu and Angela Veno were charged in 1997 with murdering their infant daughter. 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 second 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. 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 22 months in custody.
Dinesh Kumar was a 26-year-old Punjabi immigrant to Canada who was charged with second degree murder in the death of his infant son in 1992. He accepted a Plea Deal of Criminal Negligence causing Death with a 90 day sentence. He was acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal, January 20, 2011.
There are many more cases that have been reviewed and convicted people have been exonerated. 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. So sad when a family is broken apart like that, isn’t it?