Thursday, December 6, 2007

Baby Amber case sounded alarm bell.

The Smith Inquiry has been told that a judge’s comments at a court case in Timmins should have sounded the alarm bell about the faulty findings of Ontario’s former chief pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.
The Timmins case was heard in 1991, 13 years before Smith was discredited and dumped from his senior job at the Ontario Coroner’s Office in 2004.
The Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology is looking into the numerous cases where the former pathologist came up with causes of death that resulted in criminal charges and court cases against innocent people. One of them was a 12-year old babysitter in Timmins accused by Smith of causing the death of 16-month-old Amber Lynn S------, during the summer of 1988.
In more than three weeks of testimony, the case of Baby Amber of Timmins has been cited several times at the Toronto inquiry.
The babysitter said the child fell down some stairs. Smith alleged the baby had been severely shaken. Based on Smith’s evidence, Timmins Police charged the 12-year old with causing Baby Amber’s death.
The 12-year-old, S.M., who cannot be fully named because of a court order, was acquitted of the charges after Mr. Justice Patrick Dunn of the Ontario Superior Court tore apart Smith’s testimony as being inaccurate, poorly researched and self-serving.
Defence experts at the Timmins trial also argued that Smith was wrong in his findings.
Justice Dunn’s criticisms were among the key reasons 12-year-old S.M. was found not guilty.
Ontario’s former chief coroner Dr. James Young, who was Smith’s boss at the time, has told the inquiry that Smith shrugged off Justice Dunn’s ruling and gave him the indication the judge had little knowledge of medical reality.
Young admitted that Smith’s attitude caused him to assume that Smith was right and that the others were wrong.
Young told the inquiry he regretted that he never considered the arguments of the other doctors at the Timmins trial. “None of them stuck with me,” he testified.
“I regret it deeply but I can't go back and change history.”
Young also admitted to the inquiry that he had not read Justice Dunn’s ruling from Timmins until he was shown the document by a member of the inquiry this year.
Young admitted that when he finally read the document, he was “dumbfounded”. He admitted that Justice Dunn’s conclusions were accurate.
Several police officers and lawyers in Timmins remember the Baby Amber case, which was heard at the courthouse on Spruce Street.
They do not however remember the case with enough detail to be able to offer comments. Also, because the babysitter was only 12 years old at the time of the alleged offence, all the records of the case, and her identity, have been kept secret by a ban on publication.

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