Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ashley Smith 'Tortured' in Prison, Mom Says, as Inquest into Death Wraps Up

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ashley Smith 'Tortured' in Prison, Mom Says, as Inquest into Death Wraps Up

Article excerpt

Ashley Smith 'tortured' in prison, mom says

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TORONTO - More than 10 months of testimony into the videotaped choking death of a teenager in her segregation cell have done little to shake her mom's view that Canada's prison system abused her daughter terribly.

Speaking after final submissions wrapped up at the Ashley Smith inquest, Coralee Smith said it would be unfair to lay responsibility for the tragedy at her daughter's feet.

"I still think it was a horrific situation," Smith said outside coroner's court.

"I think Ashley was tortured. Things haven't changed a whole bunch for me, and that's coming as a mother."

Following presiding coroner Dr. John Carlisle's charge on Monday, the five women jurors will have to grapple with a verdict as to "by what means" Smith, 19, of Moncton, N.B., met her death at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont.

Lawyer Jocelyn Speyer, acting as coroner's counsel, urged the jury to come back with a verdict of "undetermined," which she called appropriate.

The evidence as to whether the deeply disturbed Smith meant to kill herself by tying a ligature around her neck -- as she had done countless times -- simply wasn't clear-cut, Speyer said.

Some of the 83 witnesses, who testified over 107 days starting last Jan. 14, said the teen spoke positively about her future and going home to her mom.

Others said she had become inconsolably desolate at the prospects of never leaving prison, noting her sentence began with a few weeks for throwing crab apples at a postal worker but ballooned to a cumulative 2,239 days by the time she died on Oct. 19, 2007, mostly for acting out in prison.

Similarly, Speyer said, there was no clarity the death was accidental.

Speyer was adamant, however, in recommending the jury not return a verdict of homicide -- a neutral, non-criminal finding that someone contributed significantly to Smith's death.

Several parties, including Smith's family, have urged the homicide finding on the basis that the prison warden, Cindy Berry, had ordered guards to stay out of her cell as long as she was still breathing. …

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