TORONTO – A Canadian mother who says she was wrongfully convicted of murdering her 2-year-old son after a disgraced pathologist made mistakes in her case and others was freed on bail Thursday after 14 years in prison.
Tammy Marquardt was one of several parents convicted of killing their children based on the testimony of Charles Smith, once considered Canada's leading pediatric pathologist. The Ontario government has found Smith actually had little expertise, rarely visited crime scenes and had sloppy work practices.
In 20 child autopsies reviewed by outside experts in 2005, Smith made major scientific errors in evidence that led to baseless murder charges, and 13 criminal convictions. Several cases have been thrown out of court.
Now Marquardt is waiting on a Supreme Court of Canada decision that would give her permission to appeal her conviction. The prosecution didn't oppose her request for bail.
"Today I finally have my day. This is my day. I'm out. I made it," Marquardt, 37, said outside the Ontario Court of Appeal, struggling to catch her breath through tears of joy.
She was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her son Kenneth and was given a life sentence in 1995. She said she found the boy tangled in his bedsheets, but Smith said the boy was smothered or strangled.
Six forensic experts have rejected Smith's findings in the case, including one who said the epileptic boy could have died from a seizure.
"It's the worst kind of heartache a parent could ever feel," Marquardt said.
Smith stopped performing autopsies in 2001 after several cases in which he was involved fell apart amid questions about the quality of his work. He has not been charged with any crime.
An investigation ordered by Ontario's chief coroner of 45 child deaths involving autopsies or expert testimony from Smith. It found the pathologist made questionable findings in 20 cases dating back to 1991.
Last year, Smith told a government inquiry that his lack of training in the field contributed to the mistakes, and he apologized to the people who suffered.
Marquardt's lawyer James Lockyer said the process of looking into other possible wrongful convictions continues.
"Today is a very emotional day," he said. "You've got to struggle to hold back the tears."