Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conviction in Baby's Suffocation Struck over Faulty Charles Smith Pathology

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conviction in Baby's Suffocation Struck over Faulty Charles Smith Pathology

Article excerpt

Guilty plea based on faulty pathology struck

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TORONTO - A man who pleaded guilty to killing his baby daughter in a fit of frustration almost two decades ago should get a new trial given the involvement of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith, Ontario's top court ruled on Wednesday.

The decision by O'Neil Blackett to take a manslaughter plea deal in 2001 was done in anticipation of Smith's testimony that the little girl had been murdered, the Court of Appeal said.

"This is one of those cases where, despite the passage of time since the plea was entered, this court should exercise its power to set aside the guilty plea in the interests of justice," the Appeal Court ruled. "Fresh evidence establishes that absent Dr. Smith's flawed opinion, the appellant would not have pleaded guilty."

The case arose in February 1999, when Blackett was looking after his 13-month-old daughter, Tamara Thomas, who had a history of breathing and intestinal problems for which she had on an occasion needed hospital care. When her mother returned from running errands to her apartment in Toronto's east end, she found Tamara lifeless in her playpen.

In the month before she died, Tamara had been found with a fractured thigh while Blackett was looking after her. A responding paramedic, who described the father as an "anxious parent who showed concern," said Tamara's leg had been caught in the spindles of her crib. Police found the crib unsafe and decided the injury was accidental. Blackett co-operated with an ensuing investigation by the Children's Aid Society, although the girl's mother did not.

Days before she died, Tamara began throwing up and losing weight. Responders on the day of her death described Blackett as distraught and confused, and said he denied harming her.

Smith, at the time a renowned pediatric forensic pathologist, was of the view the child had suffocated either due to strangulation or brute force applied to her body. …

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