Acquittal for mother who admitted killing stepchild

TORONTO -- Ontario's top court has formally acquitted a woman who pleaded guilty 25 years ago to killing her three-year-old stepdaughter.

See Full Article

The decision in favour of Maria Shepherd, of Brampton, Ont., came after a short hearing at the urging of both Crown and defence.

The Appeal Court took just a few minutes to render its decision.

Shepherd pleaded guilty in 1992 to manslaughter in the death of Kasandra Shepherd.

Her plea was based on evidence from now-disgraced pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, who was then considered an unassailable expert.

Defence lawyer, James Lockyer, with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, told the justices that other experts have now concluded Smith's opinion was seriously flawed.

Crown lawyer Howard Leibovich agreed, and urged Shepherd's conviction be quashed in favour of an acquittal.

He said a "miscarriage of justice" had occurred, and Shepherd would not have pleaded guilty had she known what she knows now.

"This is a tragic case," Leibovich said. "Kasandra deserved better. Her family deserved better. (Shepherd) deserved better."

Speaking for the court, Justice David Watt exonerated Shepherd, saying Smith's evidence had been the "linchpin" for the Crown's case against her.

The justice system, he said, held out a "powerful inducement" for her to plead guilty given that she faced a possible lengthy prison sentence had she been convicted after a trial, Watt said.

"The appeal is allowed," Watt said. "The plea of guilty and conviction is set aside and an acquittal entered. 5/8

Smith's autopsy on the girl was one of many suspicious child deaths he had done, several leading to wrongful convictions.

A review of his work and subsequent public inquiry uncovered numerous examples where he made serious mistakes. He was stripped of his medical licence in 2011.

"It has of course been a long and terrible ordeal for (Shepherd)," Lockyer told the court. "She had always maintained her innocence."

Court documents show Kasandra began vomiting and became unresponsive in April 1991 after a long period of ill health. She died two days after being admitted to hospital.

Smith concluded she died from trauma due to at least one blow of "significant force."

Shepherd had told police she pushed the child once, with her wrist and watch hitting the girl on the back of the head, but said she didn't believe the blow could have killed the girl.

Her lawyer at the time consulted an outside expert who agreed Smith's theory was reasonable, prompting her to plead guilty to manslaughter. She was sentenced to two years less a day.

"I did not cause Kasandra's death, and my conviction for doing so has haunted me ever since," Shepherd said in a recent affidavit.

Forensic experts have now concluded Smith's testimony at Shepherd's court hearing contained a "number of significant errors."

The theory now is that Kasandra may have had a previous brain injury that caused seizures or that she suddenly developed a seizure disorder that killed her.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Assault charge stayed for northern B.C. politician Pat Pimm

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- An assault charge against a member of the B.C. legislature has been stayed. A spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch says Pat Pimm agreed to a peace bond Monday for a period of eight months that prohibits him from contacting the complainant. Source
  • Iranian baby with heart defect delayed by travel ban doing well, say doctors

    World News CTV News
    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Physicians say a four-month-old Iranian girl with a rare heart condition who was affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban is "out of the woods" and making good progress after her life-saving surgery last Friday. Source
  • Hundreds of thousands remain without water after floods in Chile

    World News CTV News
    SANTIAGO, Chile - Hundreds of thousands of homes in communities around Chile's capital remained without water Monday as authorities struggled to restore service following floods caused by Andean rainfall. There were three confirmed deaths and 19 people were listed as missing in the flooding. Source
  • Accused Kim Jong-nam killer partied until dawn

    World News Toronto Sun
    One of the party girls accused of killing the estranged brother of North Korean despot Kim Jong-un was at a birthday bash ’til dawn on the day of the murder. Cops say the Feb. 13 mission was to kill Kim Jong-nam with a deadly poison. Source
  • Reena Virk's mother speaks out on Kelly Ellard decision

    Canada News CTV News
    The mother of murdered B.C. teen Reena Virk doesn’t believe the parole board that granted her daughter’s killer temporary escorted absences from prison would have been swayed by the Virk family’s opposition. “The powers that be will do what they want to do regardless,” Suman Virk told CTV News Channel Monday. Source
  • UN condemns North Korea's attempts to evade sanctions

    World News CTV News
    The Security Council on Monday condemned North Korea's "irresponsible and provocative" attempts to evade UN sanctions. Council members emphasized "the importance of full compliance" with the six rounds of increasingly tougher sanctions in a statement after closed-door discussions. Source
  • TTC ad for app showing pot shop listings lights up controversy

    Canada News CBC News
    A set of ads displayed across the TTC for an app called WeedMaps is lighting up controversy over whether the transit agency should be helping marijuana dispensaries generate profits, as police attempt to crack down on illegal pot shops in the city. Source
  • Cyberspy service eyes political blackmail as part of democratic risk assessment

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The threat of political blackmail could figure in a wide-ranging review of risks to Canada's electoral system, says a senior official from the national cyberspy agency. Safeguarding personal information on voters lists, ensuring election ballot tallies aren't manipulated and preventing fake news from swaying the public might also be part of the study, said Scott Jones of the Communications Security Establishment. Source
  • Halifax friends post Kijiji ad for dates to hockey game, get 200 responses

    Canada News CTV News
    A pair of friends in Halifax found unlikely success in their bid to find dates to a hockey game after taking inspiration from a Hollywood movie. Nick Hartling and Connor Beck consider each other best friends and share a love for hockey and humour. Source
  • Calgary homicide victim Susie Elko 'never stood a chance' Listen to 911 call

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    playpausestopmuteunmute 911 Call Accused killer was 'like a zombie' Susie Elko was fatally stabbed with the knife she gave to her boyfriend as a birthday present, a prosecutor said Monday. Source