Williams Mullins-Johnson, Louise Reynolds

Charles Smith Inquiry: Let’s not lose sight of the real issue

By —— Bio and Archives--November 15, 2007

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The Ontario public inquiry into the work of former forensic pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, got underway this week. In 2005, the province’s chief coroner began a review of several deaths of children that occurred between 1991 and 2001. The cases that were reviewed were all ones that were worked on by Smith and many of them resulted in criminal charges, convictions and imprisonment for those believed to have played a role in the deaths of some of these children. A lot of Smith’s work was found to have been defective and some of the “crimes” that people had been convicted of turned out not even to have been crimes.


Perhaps the two most notorious cases were those of Williams Mullins-Johnson and Louise Reynolds. Mullins-Johnson was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of his 4-year-old niece. He spent 12 years in the penitentiary before being released. A review of the child’s death revealed that there was no evidence of sexual assault; nor was there evidence that she was murdered. It’s a fact of life that some children just die, for no apparent reason.

In 1997, the body of 7-year-old Sharon Reynolds was found near her home in Kingston Ontario. According to Smith, she had been stabbed multiple times with a small blade, probably a pair of scissors. Her mother Louise was charged with murder and spent about two years in jail before the charge against her were withdrawn in 2001. Forensic pathologists who reviewed Dr. Smith’s work concluded that the little girl had been mauled to death by a pit bull.

There were many other cases that showed that Smith’s work was defective and that this work led to erroneous findings of crime where none had been committed.

It is easy for the media and for those who pay attention to the inquiry to focus on these individual stories of misdiagnosis and wrongful imprisonment. It is the stuff of made-for-TV movies. But this is the purpose of the inquiry that is currently being undertaken.

The mandate of the inquiry’s commissioner, Court of Appeal Justice Stephen Goudge is not to examine individual cases nor assign blame for the deaths of children that resulted in some cases, in wrongful imprisonment of innocent people. The criminal justice system has and will continue to correct these injustices to the extent that matters such as this can be corrected. No doubt those who have been convicted and jailed for crimes that had never occurred in the first place will at some stage be eligible for compensation from the government. Nor is the inquiry restricted to an examination of the work of Dr. Charles Smith that has already been reviewed.

The mandate of the Goudge inquiry is to examine the entire system of how suspicious deaths of children are handled. The inquiry will examine the work not only of Smith and other forensic pathologists but that of the police, prosecutors and others who become involved when a child dies under sudden or mysterious circumstances.

The importance of this inquiry is not what happened in individual cases but to determine whether or not there is some kind of systemic fault in the system; whether or not there is pressure to find and hold someone criminally responsible whenever a child unexpectedly dies. The inquiry will hopefully establish whether a type of systemic child abuse hysteria exists such that those who investigate these matters tend to bend over backwards to establish the responsibility of an adult where none exists. It will be interesting to see if evidence is led of other forensic pathologists being pressured to conclude that children had been murdered when that fact is not apparent from the scientific and other evidence. The major factor facing the inquiry is not what has happened but why. If the inquiry was just to examine the work of one man, it would not be necessary to hold it.

It is important that we determine if there are forces out there that rush to find incidents of child abuse where none exists. We can’t afford to lose sight of this fact and solely concentrate on the individual miscarriages of justice that were set into motion by the work and testimony of Charles Smith.


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Arthur Weinreb -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. Arthur’s latest book, Ford Nation: Why hundreds of thousands of Torontonians supported their conservative crack-smoking mayor is available at Amazon. Racism and the Death of Trayvon Martin is also available at Smashwords. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com,  Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

Older articles (2007) by Arthur Weinreb

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