Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shocking Prison Videos Central to Ashley Smith Inquest

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shocking Prison Videos Central to Ashley Smith Inquest

Article excerpt

Shocking videos central to Ashley Smith probe

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TORONTO - The videos were often jerky, of poor quality, yet what they showed was undeniably shocking: A hooded young woman being duct-taped to her airplane seat; guards in riot gear forcibly restraining and injecting her with powerful drugs; lying on a concrete floor on a segregation cell, blue in the face, taking her all too final gasps.

The images and sounds of those videos from prison surveillance cameras or taken by front-line guards stand out sharply among the hundreds of exhibits and thousands of hours of testimony at the inquest into the tragic death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith.

More than any other evidence presented before or during 11 months of hearings, video galvanized the inquest into the teen's death.

"It demonstrates in stark detail what happened to Ashley," said Breese Davies, lawyer for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

"It shone a light on their conduct that you wouldn't get from the documents and from the testimony."

For years after Smith's death on Oct. 19, 2007, at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., Correctional Service Canada fought the release of the videos. For years, lawyers for Smith's family fought to have them made public.

A first attempt at the mandatory inquest collapsed in acrimony. The second seemed destined to follow the same path down a legal rabbit hole.

The videos, the family insisted, were both crucial to their arguments for a wide-ranging inquiry and to showing what Smith had endured during her time in federal custody.

Presiding coroner Dr. John Carlisle ordered the videos be screened.

Correctional Service Canada headed to the courts to fight the move, prompting charges of "coverup" and "bullying" from the family and others at the inquest.

"This case is really about Correctional Service Canada taking all conceivable steps so that certain videos don't make it to the public record," Smith family lawyer Julian Falconer said at the time. …

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