________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015


Real Justice: Branded a Baby Killer: The Story of Tammy Marquardt.

Jasmine D'Costa.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2015.
117 pp., pbk. & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0993-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0995-8 (epub).

Subject Headings:
Marquardt, Tammy-Juvenile literature.
Smith, Charles Randal-Juvenile literature.
Mother and infant-Ontario-Juvenile literature.
Trials (Infanticide)-Ontario-Whitby-Juvenile literature.
Judicial error-Ontario-Whitby-Juvenile literature.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

*** /4



Tammy sat through the trial with a sinking heart. It was very hard to hear her character being ripped and slashed over and over again. The Crown focused on Tammy's actions and behaviour, her demeanour, to portray her as a potential killer.

Society often judges a person based on their outward appearance or their actions. But we all express our feelings differently. For example, some people cry when they are sad; others seem calm. No one can know for sure what another person is feeling or thinking simply by looking at them.

The death of one's child is widely regarded as one of the worst things that a parent can experience. In the case of Tammy Marquardt, the death by asphyxiation of her toddler son, Kenneth, in October 1993, was just the beginning of a long nightmare with the justice and corrections systems in Ontario.

      This slim volume in Lorimer's "Real Justice" series describes yet another case of wrongful murder conviction and the quest for justice and acquittal. Written in a breezy style at a reading level of 5.0, the volume should appeal to reluctant readers, youth who have had their own exposure to the criminal justice system, and more capable readers who are interested in social justice, law, and legal and crime stories. Italicized words are explained in a glossary. Six pages of black and white photos reaffirm the humanity of the victim of injustice. A helpful timeline, index, and list of three related internet resources and one scholarly journal article round out the added features that one expects from works of nonfiction at this level. The four resources are most appropriate for advanced readers and adults.

      The all-too-human temptation to judge someone based on outward appearances that Toronto-based author, actor and filmmaker D'Costa identifies as problematic should be taken to heart by all readers of this volume. Many of the players in this sad story do not come across well. The prosecutors had little problem portraying Marquardt as a troubled, rather ill-equipped parent with no familial support who could have been driven to smother her chronically sick child. In D'Costa's telling, the lack of evidence led the Crown to offer Marquardt a plea of manslaughter and a reduced sentence of five years in jail. She refused because she was innocent, and her case went to trial before a jury that was not properly screened for bias. Some of the nurses who gave testimony made comments that contradicted notes that they had made at the time of Kenneth's short stay in hospital before he died. Most damning was the testimony of the expert witness, Dr. Charles Smith, who had performed the autopsy. While acknowledging that the cause of death was asphyxiation, he supported the theory advanced by the prosecution that the asphyxiation was due to smothering, perhaps with a soft object or with a plastic bag or by holding the child's nose and mouth closed.

      Adult readers may be all too familiar with the story of Dr. Charles Smith, the discredited director of the Ontario Paediatric Forensic Pathology Unit. D'Costa is zealous in her portrayal of Smith as a pompous man who, at the time of Kenneth's death, "was the rock star of pathology." Writing that "Dr. Smith's private life influenced his work", D'Costa goes on to note his membership in a conservative, evangelical church but fails to connect these two statements. She would be better to avoid innuendo and instead focus on the fact that he was improperly trained for the role that he had been given and that his superiors were all too happy to support him when he was their star. The theme of lack of oversight over expert witnesses and corporate willingness to support cover-ups when misconduct becomes evident is worthy of more exploration.

      Marquardt's bail was revoked when she was found guilty of second-degree murder on October 24, 1995. Her 14-month old son Keith was placed in foster care, and she was moved to the Prison for Women in Kingston. She gave birth to a third son, Eric, while in custody. The authorities followed her plea to allow the boys to be adopted together. She, however, had lost all of her children and faced abuse from other prisoners. Her appeal in 1998 was unsuccessful because no new evidence had surfaced to warrant a re-trial. After 10 years in prison, she was granted parole and released to a halfway house run by the Elizabeth Fry Society in Toronto. She found it very difficult to adjust to life outside of the penitentiary and was sent back to jail when it was discovered that she was using cocaine.

      Dr. Smith's credibility in other cases of suspicious child death led to court cases and a reprimand by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario who found that Smith's conclusions often overstated the facts. A new Chief Coroner for Ontario called for a review of 44 cases where Smith was the chief pathologist. The subsequent provincial Inquiry into Paediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario (the Goudge inquiry) found that Smith's autopsy of Kenneth was deficient and his version of the cause of death an error. Marquardt finally had grounds to appeal her conviction. She was released on bail in March 2009. Her appeal was successful. Rather than seeking a new trial, the Crown withdrew the charges when her case was heard on June 7, 2011. After almost fourteen years in jail and four years of life on bail with reduced freedoms, Marquardt was free and her name cleared. She is now pursuing a civil law suit against Dr. Smith, the Hospital for Sick Children and two former officials of the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario.


Val Ken Lem is a librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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