Canada briefs – May 4

The Crown is conceding that it was a “miscarriage of justice” when a man pleaded guilty in the death of his two-month-old son because of the daunting spectre of testimony from now-disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.

Crown, defence call for father’s acquittal in death

TORONTO — The Crown is conceding that it was a “miscarriage of justice” when a man pleaded guilty in the death of his two-month-old son because of the daunting spectre of testimony from now-disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.

Both the Crown and the defence are calling for the Court of Appeal for Ontario to acquit Richard Brant, in light of fresh evidence. The court is scheduled to hear his case Wednesday.

Brant, now 38, was charged in 1993 with manslaughter in his baby’s death the previous year. He eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Brant was taking Dustin for a walk after the boy had been sick for a few days. When he lifted the rain guard on the stroller he was horrified to find Dustin’s lifeless body with thick, red foam around his nose, Brant says in an affidavit.

The infant was taken to hospital and died two days later.

While the pathologist who conducted the autopsy listed pneumonia and respiratory failure as causes of death, Smith examined the case and concluded Dustin likely died from Shaken Baby Syndrome.

He maintained he never did anything to intentionally cause Dustin’s death, but his lawyer Robert Graydon, now an Ontario Court judge, told him Smith was the “God” of his profession.


Judges reserve decision on graphic videos of Smith

TORONTO — A three-judge panel reserved its decision Tuesday as to whether an Ontario coroner erred by excluding graphic jailhouse videos from an inquest into a teen inmate’s death.

The videos depict New Brunswick teen Ashley Smith being forcibly restrained and injected with anti-psychotic drugs in a Quebec prison several months prior to her 2007 death in an Ontario institution.

Smith’s family says the tapes would give the jury a true picture of her state of mind when she strangled herself in a segregation cell while staff at the Kitchener, Ont., facility looked on.

A divisional court in Toronto heard arguments all day Monday and Tuesday morning before Justice David Aston announced that they were undecided.

Michael Doi, the lawyer representing presiding coroner Bonita Porter, says she was fulfilling her role when she decided the tapes are not relevant.

Julian Falconer, the lawyer for Smith’s family, argued that refusing to admit the tapes may render the coroner’s inquest, scheduled to begin on May 16, futile.

“It’s up to this court to make sure that this evidence does not disappear forever,” Falconer said Monday. “This coroner needs guidance.”


Father seeks information on journalist missing in Syria

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. — A North Vancouver father is asking people to write letters and put any kind of pressure they can on the Syrian government to release information on the whereabouts of his daughter.

Fred Parvaz says he last heard from his daughter Dorothy on Thursday.

She’s an accomplished journalist who graduated from the University of British Columbia, then got her masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

She currently works for Al-Jazeera and her dad says she was heading to an assignment in Damascus.

He says the airline manifest indicates Dorothy arrived at the Damascus airport, but she never checked into her hotel and the family is assuming she is being held at the airport.

Dorothy Parvaz’s fiance Todd Barker says she was aware that Syria can be a dangerous place, but she was committed to her job.

Roughly 2,000 people have joined a Facebook group called ‘Free Dorothy Parvaz,’ in hopes of having her released.


Police find body of man sought in deaths of kids

SAINT-EDMOND-DE-GRANTHAM, Que. — A man alleged to have torched a truck that caused the deaths of two young children southeast of Montreal has been found dead.

A police spokesman said a body found in central Quebec on Tuesday is that of Martin Houle, 37, the father of a six-year-old boy who survived the blaze despite being badly burned.

His two other children are classified as “missing” after police said they were unable to identify two charred bodies discovered in the truck Monday.

Police say Houle is a father of three, but they are unable to confirm any relation between him and the two young victims found in the vehicle. They were burned beyond recognition.

An autopsy on the two will be necessary, police said.

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