Tammy Marquardt lost a lot of hope in the 14 years since she was convicted of murdering her toddler son following testimony by a since-disgraced pathologist.
But she could hardly contain her excitement yesterday when she was granted freedom in what she called the first step in her quest for exoneration.
"I'm just glad it's finally here. This is my day. I'm out. I made it," a tearful Marquardt, 37, said outside the downtown courthouse where she was granted bail pending the outcome of her application to the Supreme Court of Canada to have her case reopened for an appeal. "I would never wish this upon my worst enemy."
She was the last known parent who remained behind bars based on the testimony of child pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.
Marquardt was 21 when she was accused of killing her 2 1/2-year-old son, Kenneth Wynne, in 1993.
Smith testified Kemmeth had been asphyxiated. Marquardt was convicted in 1995.
A lot has happened since then.
Once a world-renowned child pathologist, a coroner's review made public in 2007 found that Smith made questionable conclusions of foul play in several cases that resulted in criminal convictions. In an inquiry that followed, Justice Stephen Goudge noted that Smith's testimony sent several wrongfully accused to jail and that he had "woefully inadequate" training.
Aside from a brief parole stint in 2007, Marquardt has been in jail ever since she was convicted of second-degree murder, having refused a guilty manslaughter plea for a lesser sentence.
Evidence from several experts, including Dr. Simon Avis, chief medical examiner of Newfoundland and Labrador, "entirely discredits" Smith's testimony in Marquardt's trial, defence lawyer James Lockyer said.
"What they've uncovered is that Smith got it wrong. He drew conclusions on the basis of nothing and in fact, Kenneth had suffered seizures all his life," Lockyer said.
"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.
"It's the worst kind of heartache a parent can feel," Marquardt said of her guilty verdict. "I don't think there's any other pain that could possibly be worse. I just hope and pray that the system changes."
Marquardt said she felt she was abandoned by the justice system, but fought because she wants her two estranged sons, now 12 and 14 years old, to know "the truth."
"I just hope that one day they know what happened," she said. "Just because I'm their birth mother doesn't mean they have to see me. It has to be their choice."
Among Marquardt's supporters at the courthouse was William Mullins-Johnson, who was wrongly convicted in 1994 for the so-called murder of his four-year-old niece, Valin. His conviction also relied on testimony from Smith.
"Look at the damage this guy's done, and not just my life or Tammy's. Our self worth was stomped on."
Other injustices at the hands of Smith:
- William Mullins-Johnson spent more than 12 years behind bars after being convicted of murdering his niece, Valin, 4.
- Brenda Waudby was charged with beating her toddler to death. A 14-year-old boy who baby-sat the girl was later convicted of manslaughter.
- Louise Reynolds was in jail for more than three years awaiting trial after accusations she stabbed her seven-year-old daughter to death. The charges were dropped after it was determined the 82 wounds were dog bites.
- Lianne Thibeault was still grieving the death of her 11-month-old son when Smith claimed she killed her baby and ordered his body exhumed for an autopsy. Another pathologist took issue with Smith's finding and the death has since been labelled an unexplained tragedy.
- Maureen Laidley was charged with killing her boyfriend's three-year-old son. Smith asked the court for a third-party probe after the case, which hinged on his testimony, was pulled by the Crown.
- Angela Veno and Anthony Kporwodu were charged with killing their three-month-old daughter, Athena. The Ontario Court of Appeal threw out the charges, criticizing Smith's untimely report for risking a miscarriage of justice.