Tammy Marquardt is finally free after serving 14 years in jail for a crime she did not commit. She is one of many victims convicted on the flawed testimony of pathologist Charles Smith. This one cuts close to home in that her two children were taken from her and after she was convicted, adopted out.
In February 2011, The Ontario Court of Appeal quashed the murder conviction of a Toronto mother who was imprisoned for life on the basis of flawed testimony from pathologist Charles Smith.
15 years later, court overturns child murder conviction – small quote below:
“We recognize this has been a terrible ordeal for you and it’s tragic it has taken so long to uncover the flawed pathology that led to your conviction in 1995,”Justice Marc Rosenberg told Tammy Marquardt Thursday morning.
“We agree … there was a miscarriage of justice,” Rosenberg said on behalf of a three-judge panel.
In June 2011: Crown withdraws murder charge against Charles Smith victim – small quote below:
OSHAWA, Ont. – Shortly after Tammy Marquardt was sent to prison in 1995 in the death of her two-year-old son, she had the word “freedom” tattooed on her arm.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday that she could truly say she was free.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario quashed Marquardt’s second-degree murder conviction earlier this year, calling her a victim of a miscarriage of justice and ordering a new trial. But rather than proceed with a new trial Tuesday, the Crown withdrew the charge because of how much time had passed and the “flawed” evidence of the now notorious former pathologist Charles Smith.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Michael Brown said it’s tragic that it took so long to uncover Smith’s mistakes and conveyed to her his “deepest regret.”
“You’re free to go, ma’am,” he said.
An inquiry was held into Dr. Smith and can be found in full here. I cannot do justice to the full report but just want to show a few findings from the inquiry that starts to paint a picture of how flawed the system was. Following are quick notes taken from this report in Volume 1 – Executive Summary as for some reason I can’t copy direct quotes so please take the time to read the actual words for accuracy.
In 1991 a trial judge raised the first alarm bell when he strongly criticised Dr. Smith for his methodology and conclusions and acquitted the defendant. Over the next 14 years there were other warning signs and finally the new Chief Coroner for Ontario initiated a review of Dr. Smith’s work by 5 independent forensic pathologists.
1. All but one of the 45 cases examined the indicated examinations were done.
2. In nine of the 45 cases the examiners disagreed with significant facts in the report or testimony.
3. In 20 of the 45 cases the examiners took issue with either his report or testimony or both of which 12 of the 20 cases had findings of guilt from the courts.
The report goes on to talk about how Dr. Smith failed to understand his role was to be independent and neutral and lists under the subtitle “Providing Evidence”, 10 different areas he failed in including not understanding his role as an expert witness did not mean supporting the Crown and acting as an advocate for the Crown and to “make the case look good”. It just goes on an on how he failed to acknowledge the limits of his expertise and some cases overstated them. That he provided unscientific evidence. Testified outside of his area of expertise. That he offered opinions that were speculative, unsubstantiated and not based on pathology findings. Not testifying with candor that is required of an expert witness and at times made false or misleading statements.
And at the end of the day Tammy Marquardt is only one of many parents and families were severely damaged and that just does not go away. They will always carry the stigma in some people’s minds. They have lost huge chunks of their lives. And when the worst possible thing happens which is the death of your child – instead of being allowed to grieve and be comforted by your family, you are convicted and sent to jail. Horrific. And to top it all of – your other kids are taken and adopted out. No matter what the compensation that is awarded to them – nothing can truly compensate for having your life ruined and your children taken away. Nothing.
I do wonder how the province will deal with this in regards to the adoption…the children are almost adults or are adults but what happens?