UPDATE: Doctor Charles Smith, MD
DISGRACED DOCTOR A COWARD TO THE END
from an article by Michelle Mandel – The Toronto Sun
But a coward to the end, Dr. Charles Smith was a no-show at the disciplinary hearing that stripped the discredited pathologist of his license to practice medicine.
Disgraceful. Dishonorable. Unprofessional. Incompetent. He was labelled all of those things by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Tuesday after his lawyer indicated that he was pleading no contest to their charges.
But it’s not enough. Revoking his medical license is hardly much of a punishment when Smith hasn’t tried to re-register since it expired under a cloud of controversy in August 2008.
From a regulatory body that looked the other way for so long, it’s too little, too late.
“That’s a spit in the face of myself and the public of this province,” complained Williams Mullins-Johnson, who was wrongly convicted of the first-degree murder of his niece based on Smith’s “erroneous” conclusions. “A slap on the wrist, pat on the head and told to be on his way.”
The innocent people Smith helped send to prison want much, much more.
It was his bungled case which brought to light for many the frightening depth of the pathologist’s incompetence. While Smith testified that Mullins-Johnson had sodomized and killed the four-year-old, his conviction was overturned in 1997 when other experts concluded she’d likely died of natural causes.
“For 12 years in prison, I could have been shanked, I could have been hung, I could have been beaten over something that didn’t even happen,” he said bitterly. “And for the attorney general’s office to step aside now and not take action against this man is wrong, unconstitutional and illegal.”
As criticism mounted against Smith, Ontario’s chief coroner called for a review of 45 child autopsies where the once renowned pathologist had determined the cause of death was murder or criminally suspicious. In 2007, the outside experts concluded Smith had made major errors in 20 of those cases — 13 of which had resulted in criminal convictions.
That was followed by the damning inquiry report from Justice Stephen Goudge that skewered Smith as incompetent, arrogant and unqualified. Five wrongful convictions based on his evidence have now been overturned, with many more pending appeal.
One of those still waiting to clear her name is Maria Shepherd. The 40-year-old mother wants nothing more than to have Smith walk the same prison corridors she did, labelled a child killer and in fear for her life.
“Charles Smith is a disgrace to the medical profession and to humanity itself,” she wrote in one of six emotionally-charged victim impact statements read to the discipline committee.
Shepherd spent two years less a day in jail — eight months of it pregnant — after she was convicted of manslaughter for the death of her stepdaughter Kassandra. She felt she had no choice but to plead guilty in the face of Smith’s unchallenged expertise or risk never being with her other children again.
Eloquent and impassioned, Shepherd has never spoken publicly before of her ordeal. But she had come with son Jordan and daughter Chelsea to witness Smith’s censure and couldn’t remain silent when he failed to appear.
“The absolute closing line for me is to see this man to face prison,” she said after the hearing. “I do hope one day that the Crown and the police will find some way to hold you accountable criminally for all that you’ve done.”
For what he did was ruin the lives of many innocent parents and caregivers during his two-decade “reign of terror.”
In an agreed statement of facts, the panel heard Smith conducted autopsies in criminally suspicious child deaths from 1981 to 2001 yet had no formal forensic training.
He exaggerated his experience, “misinterpreted autopsy findings” and expressed “erroneous opinions” not supported by the evidence.
College lawyer Carolyn Silver called Smith’s conduct the “most egregious” and “most shocking departure” from the level of professionalism expected from its members. The panel agreed Smith deserves their most severe punishment and ordered him to appear before them March 25.
Somehow we doubt the spineless coward will suddenly find the courage to do so.
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