In this national bestseller, a work of vigorous reporting, deep compassion and unerring integrity, award-winning journalist and documentarian John Chipman investigates the lives left ruined in the wake of Dr. Charles Smith's ignominious career.
In the mid-'90s, the Ontario Coroner's office decided that death investigation teams needed to "think dirty." They wanted coroners, pathologists and police to be more suspicious--to "assume that all deaths are homicides until satisfied that they are not." They were particularly concerned about pediatric deaths, which historically had been exceedingly difficult to investigate. There were usually no witnesses; no evidence to gather at the scene; no outward signs of trauma on the body. If the pathologist did not discover the truth of what had happened, child abuse could go uncovered.
Among those charged to "think dirty" was Dr. Charles Smith, Ontario's top pediatric forensic pathologist at the time. But with virtually no training in forensics, Dr. Smith was ill prepared for his work. Instead of basing his judgments on forensic evidence found during autopsies, he allowed himself to be swayed by circumstantial evidence. The defendants were often single mothers--some on welfare, some struggling with substance abuse. And they made for easy targets. Dr. Smith made dangerous assumptions, and the results were catastrophic. Numerous individuals were pronounced guilty, and incarcerated, on his shaky evidence.
This penetrating investigative work explores the wide ripples of destruction caused when the justice system fails, the burden felt by ethical individuals working within that system and the importance of its victims finally being heard.
About the Author
JOHN CHIPMAN is a journalist, author and documentarian, and is currently a producer at CBC Radio's As It Happens. His work has taken him across Canada, to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. He has worked, written and edited for the National Post, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He also co-produced a Gemini-award-winning television documentary for The Fifth Estate, and has done numerous radio documentaries and special features for The Current, Metro Morning and The Sunday Edition. He is the author of The Obsession: Tragedy in the North Atlantic. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.
Winner of The Speaker's Book Award
"I have read many books detailing miscarriages of justice. Chipman's book is one of the best. It offers a vivid, absorbing and heart-wrenching peek into the experiences of the people it discusses. It is well researched and written, but what makes it especially compelling is that it often reads like a suspense novel—a novel in which one kind of knows the ending but aches and agonizes nonetheless as the story progresses." —The Globe and Mail
"[Chipman] writes with a fierce immediacy that balances the medical-scientific details of the autopsy world, the legal minutiae of the courts and the brutal conditions behind prison walls. [Death in the Family] is a painful reminder of the far-reaching, devastating ripple effects on friends, families and communities when the systems that are supposed to protect basic democratic rights fail." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"With the clinical precision and the driving passion for the truth that are the hallmarks of every great journalist, John Chipman takes you on a harrowing journey into a parent's worst nightmare: not only has your child died, but you are wrongly blamed for the death. Shocking, enraging and yet ultimately uplifting, Chipman's investigation adds yet another haunting chapter to Canada's long history of wrongful convictions." —Julian Sher, author of "Until You Are Dead": Steven Truscott's Long Ride into History
"Chipman explains how an incompetent pathologist helped convict innocent parents of their children's deaths and allowed a murderer to go free. Brimming with emotional intelligence, the ending of this book is stunning. Bravo!" —Michael Harris, author of Justice Denied, Unholy Orders and Party of One
"More than a dozen parents [were] victimized by the incompetence of Dr. Charles Smith, who served for more than 20 years as the influential head of pediatric forensic pathology at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. Ontario's 2008 Goudge Inquiry reviewed 45 cases in which Smith had concluded that a child's death was criminally suspicious. . . . A painstakingly researched true-crime volume, John Chipman's Death in the Family successfully puts human faces on those statistics. By focusing on the fate of four families Smith investigated, Chipman delivers a careful recreation of events that is both damning and affecting. . . . Death in the Family is a cautionary reminder of the potential damage done by blind faith in institutional competence." —Quill & Quire