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

  • United Methodist Church chides Sessions over border policy

    World News CTV News
    House GOP gets little direction from Trump on immigration United Methodist Church chides Sessions over border policy Youngest child migrants held in 'tender age' shelters in Texas Source
  • Navy submarine set to return to Halifax after five-month deployment

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Royal Canadian Navy submarine HMCS Windsor is expected to return to Halifax today after completing a five-month deployment in the Euro-Atlantic region. The Victoria-class submarine was on patrol as part of Operation Projection, conducting training exercises with navies and other international security partners. Source
  • Palace says Prince Louis to be christened July 9

    World News CTV News
    LONDON - Britain's royal palace says Prince Louis will be christened July 9 by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The third son of Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge was born April 23 and is fifth in line to the throne. Source
  • Indonesia ferry deaths rise to more than 190 as survivors report severe overcrowding

    World News CBC News
    Distraught relatives slammed Indonesia's government for not enforcing basic safety measures on passenger boats and pleaded Wednesday for a bigger search effort for more than 190 people presumed drowned after a ferry sank on a picturesque Sumatran lake earlier this week. Source
  • Pope criticizes Trump administration policy on migrant family separation

    World News CBC News
    Pope Francis has criticized the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border, saying populism is not the answer to the world's immigration problems. Speaking to Reuters, the Pope said he supported recent statements by U.S. Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents "contrary to our Catholic values" and "immoral. Source
  • Two men in hospital with head injuries after alleged assault with baseball bats

    Canada News CTV News
    HALTON HILLS, Ont. - Police say two men are in hospital with serious head injuries after their car was surrounded and they were allegedly beaten with baseball bats early Wednesday morning. Halton Regional Police say the incident happened on the border between Halton and Peel regions, where three men were in a car that was surrounded by several "suspect vehicles. Source
  • Aurora Cannabis to spin out U.S. assets into separate company

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's second largest cannabis company plans to place its U.S. assets into a new separate company that will focus on investing in the cannabis and real estate sector there. TSX-listed Aurora Cannabis said Wednesday it plans to distribute units of its subsidiary Australis Capital Inc. Source
  • Mandalay Bay hotel in Vegas floods after water main break

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- A water main broke Tuesday flooding a convention centre in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the break dumped water onto the first floor of the convention area, and about a thousand people on the second floor had to be relocated. Source
  • Many in Puerto Rico still under tarps as storm threat looms

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Hurricane Maria ripped away part of the steel roof from Carmen Lidia Torres Mercado's home in the Puerto Rican capital. Nine months later, she is still relying on a blue plastic tarp to protect her home, even with a new storm season already two weeks old. Source
  • Ont. police lay nearly 700 charges against truckers during 24-hour blitz

    Canada News CTV News
    ORILLIA, Ont. - Provincial police say they laid nearly 700 charges against transport truck drivers during a day-long blitz on Ontario's roads last week. Police partnered with the Ministry of Transportation and stopped a total of 1,692 trucks over the 24-hour period on June 13 and 14. Source