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Kevin Connor
Sun Media
November 30, 2007

The province’s former chief coroner was grilled yesterday how he could miss so many opportunities to discover that Dr. Charles Smith’s pathology finding were ripped by a judge in 1991.

Dr. James Young said he only learned of the harsh commentary from the bench while preparing to testify at the Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario, sparked after revelations that Smith’s flawed scientific findings helped convict several people of crimes they didn’t commit.

In 1998, Smith testified a Timmins baby died of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her baby sitter – a finding rejected by nine international experts who said the little girl died from a fall down stairs.

The judge wrote that Smith was reckless, arrogant and ignorant for not being up to date on the latest findings on how a short fall can cause a child’s death.

Smith was also criticized because he only considered shaken baby syndrome, even before he knew the weight and size of the baby.

”This would have been a concern to me if I had been aware,” said Young, adding the coroner’s office doesn’t follow trials to see the outcome or read the judgment.

Young said Smith later told him he had met with the judge, who apologized for not understanding about shaken baby syndrome enough at the time of the trial.

Commission counsel Mark Sandler had other examples in which he said Young should also have been aware.

A magazine article and a television broadcast that Young admitted being aware of at the time both publicized the judge’s contempt for Smith’s work.

Young said he must have stopped reading the magazine article before getting to the judge’s comments and must have been out of town when the TV program aired.

”No one raised the issue with me (over the TV airing). It would have been useful information. Do I wish I’d seen it? Yes. I regret I missed them,” Young said.

”I would have been happy to receive this information from the Crown, the defence or the judge himself.”

In another case – in which a man who spent his life savings to successfully clear his daughter’s name after Smith’s testimony – sent Young a Coroner’s Council Complaint detailing the judge’s criticism.

Young wrote back saying he read the complaint.

”I have no memory of reading that part. You can’t mess facts together from one case to another, so I must have stopped reading,” Young said.

”I missed it. In the clear light of day what was said was astoundingly accurate.”

Young admitted there should be a mechanism in place that informs the coroner’s office when a trial is completed as well as the outcome.

Young is to continue his testimony today and Monday.