Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mother wrongfully accused of killing son see justice's light!

Tammy Marquardt watched for years from prison as case after case involving a child's death and the testimony of a now a disgraced pathologist was reopened and wondered when it would be her turn.

On Thursday, 14 years after being convicted of killing her two-year-old son, Marquardt was granted bail.

Though the courts haven't yet decided if they'll hear her appeal, Marquardt was beaming after being released.

"Today I finally have my day," Marquardt said outside the Ontario Court of Appeal, struggling to catch her breath through her tears. "This is my day. I'm out. I made it."

She was the last known parent who remained behind bars based on the testimony of Dr. Charles Smith. Marquardt was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her son Kenneth and was handed a life sentence in 1995.

She said she found the boy tangled in his bedsheets, but Smith said he was smothered or strangled.

Marquardt's lawyer James Lockyer said not only did she not kill her son, but no crime was ever committed. Kenneth had seven documented trips to hospital for seizures, Lockyer said.

Smith's findings have since been rejected by six forensic experts, including one who said the epileptic boy could have died from a seizure.

"Pathology can no longer determine the cause of Kenneth's death," Lockyer said outside court.
"There's every reason to believe that he died as a result of seizures that he'd suffered from all his life."

Last October, the Goudge inquiry into Ontario's pediatric pathology system criticized Smith for "irresponsible" testimony in a series of child death cases.

The Crown did not oppose the request for bail. When it was granted, Marquardt's supporters cheered and her nervous half-smile became a broad grin.

Marquardt's lawyers are awaiting a Supreme Court of Canada decision seeking leave to appeal. However, they are asking the case be heard in Ontario's Appeal Court.

There is fresh evidence, Lockyer said, not the least of which is the opinion of Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical examiner, which "entirely discredits everything that Dr. Smith said back in 1995."
"We're starting to learn that pathologists used to go way beyond their expertise into the realms of pure speculation and were turning natural deaths into homicides," Lockyer said.

Marquardt said she wants to ask Smith "why," but adds the entire system must be accountable for the "living hell" she experienced.

"It's the worst kind of heartache a parent could ever feel," Marquardt said.

"I don't think there's any other pain that could possibly be worse."

Thoughts of her other sons, who are now 12 and 14, helped her through the long incarceration, she said.

"One day they're going to want to know what happened," said Marquardt.

"They're going to want to hear the truth and I'm the only one that can give that to them. So I have to be there for them. When they're ready, they'll find me. I've got faith in that."

Marquardt had briefly been on parole but it was revoked after she tested positive for cocaine.
The diminutive 37-year-old marked her birthday in jail Wednesday and said her freedom is a wonderful present and a chance at a new beginning.

She received support and advice Thursday from William Mullins-Johnson - one of the few people who have been through a similar ordeal.
Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison after being convicted of raping and suffocating his four-year-old niece based, in part, on the testimony of Smith.

He was ultimately after experts concluded the young girl had died of natural causes and no crime had occurred.

Even though the day was a success, Marquardt will still be going through a tough time, he said.
"Self-doubt sets in really quickly," said Mullins-Johnson, who is studying criminology at the University of Toronto.

"You don't know who to trust, who you can count on, who's going to be there for you, because I was thrown to the wolves just like Tammy was."

Marquardt's boyfriend and his mother, who calls herself Marquardt's mother-in-law, were also in court to support her.

"She might be small, but she's a strong little girl," said Doreen Alamaras.

Nothing big was planned for Marquardt's release, Alamaras said, preferring to wait to celebrate the exoneration they believe will come.

For now, "I just want to hold her, that's all," Alamaras said.


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