COMMENTARY: "Wrong verdict for the wrongfully convicted." by Daniel Brown, published by The Toronto Star on October 25, 2016. (Daniel Brown is a criminal defence lawyer and a Toronto director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.)
GIST: "Wrongful convictions, a cancer within the justice system that robs the innocent of their lives and freedom, are alive and thriving. In dismaying contrast, the organization that represents their best hope for freedom — Innocence Canada — has faltered under a remorseless funding crisis. With dozens of cases in varying stages of preparation, the charitable organization is reportedly in the process of closing its central office, letting go key staff members and turning away new cases. How could this happen at a time when awareness of wrongful convictions has never been higher? When investigative and scientific error has swelled the ranks of innocent people who are falsely imprisoned for massive portions of their lives?.........Distinct from illness, poverty or substance abuse, the unique nature of wrongful convictions is that they are almost always caused by state actors. Frequently, they feature police officers who erred, fabricated evidence or jumped to unwarranted conclusions; prosecutors who were overzealous or failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; or expert witnesses who were underqualified, mistook results or went on a personal mission to help convict. Because of these ineradicable human frailties, wrongful convictions will always be with us. Over the past generation alone, hundreds of murder and rape convictions have been reversed in the U.S. And following years of arduous work by defence counsel at Innocence Canada (formerly known as Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted), 21 wrongful murder convictions have been unearthed and overturned in Canada. If there is any glamour to wrongful conviction work, it comes on the day media flock to report the bittersweet mix of relief, gratitude and systemic shame of an exoneration. These courtroom scenes mask the hundreds or thousands of hours that went into examining court transcript and exhibits, re-interviewing witnesses, locating fresh experts, crafting massive legal briefs aimed at obtaining disclosure of evidence or making the legal case to retry a case. Innocence Canada spans the country. As it grew, the association was able to move beyond rooting out fresh evidence in individual cases to create educational programs aimed at preventing future miscarriages of justice. It also worked with a constantly expanding network of traumatized exonerees and those who remain behind bars hoping to be freed. That is over. Reduced to a shadow of its former self, the organization will struggle to administer cases that necessitate years of hard work to locate fresh evidence capable of persuading the federal Minister of Justice, against all odds, to consider reopening a conviction. The load will not be picked up by others. While a handful of laudable campus-based initiatives provide law students with a valuable initiation in the causes of wrongful convictions, they cannot begin to substitute for the experienced, nation-wide network of lawyers working for Innocence Canada. It cannot pass unnoted that, had successive federal governments not turned a cold shoulder to the obvious need for a properly funded, independent commission that would investigate and reverse wrongful convictions, there would be no need for an Innocence Canada. So, the future seems clear. Those convicted of major crimes they did not commit will spend additional years gripping their cell bars in anguish, waiting for their case to rise to the top of the triage system to which Innocence Canada must increasingly resort. Meanwhile, expensive public inquiries that follow each exoneration will continue to urge the federal government to create an independent commission to review potential miscarriages of justice as other countries have successfully done. And each wrongful conviction that is painstakingly exposed will further jolt public faith in our justice system."
The entire commentary can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.