"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows"
A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.
Pathetic Pathology February 2, 2008
recent case of forensic pathologist Charles Smith points to a
disturbing trend in western justice. The democratic principle that a
person is innocent until proven guilty is slowly, inevitably eroding.
It is being replaced in media accounts that reach our eyes and ears, by
a new form of self-righteousness. It is a heavily weighted leap to
conclusion without benefit of temperance, ethics or checks and
balances. All across the western world there appears to be a hive of
authoritarian activity pressing the swarm to accept the corruption that
guilt precedes innocence. This is the case that appears to
surround Charles Smith. Smith, a Toronto pathologist now under
investigation for false expert testimony, has acknowledged that his
errors sent at least two innocent people to jail. In examining Smith’s
own pathology we find a man who could not remove bias and prejudice
from his professional work. Smith apparently declared in advance of
his testimony that one of the innocent defendants was, “Guilty as
are professions, jobs that pit men and women up against the worst of
their own kind. The uniformed cop, the combat soldier, the welfare
worker, the corrections officer are all exposed to the worst of human
nature. The newly arrived in these professions have a demonstrably
different psychological profile than the veteran. It is not just a
stereotype that the veteran cop or corrections officer are darker, more
cynical, often embittered men. They are. Their constant exposure to
the seediest, corrosive nature in men rubs off on them. They see the
behavior patterns of so many criminals that it becomes infused in
them. Cops’ divorce and drinking and suicide rates are notoriously
higher than those of less volatile professions. In Smith’s case he
performed nearly one thousand autopsies. It is the cases of child
deaths that Smith is under scrutiny for. How does a man handle a
torrent of broken, beaten children’s bodies without indulging in rage?
If one did not feel revulsion and anger at such crimes, how could they
a recent episode of the American crime drama “Shark,” Prosecuting
Attorney Stark (a brilliant James Woods) threatens to cut off the flow
of anesthesia to a badly burned arsonist in order to coerce a
confession. Even as his Co-Prosecutor barks warnings of its
illegality, Stark proceeds and extracts the confession. Later in a
Judge’s chambers, asked directly if he used coercion, Stark perjures
himself with a denial. When the Judge then asks the Co-Prosecutor if
she can corroborate Stark’s claim, she hesitates, then perjures herself
too. The message is that people with difficult jobs, who deal in crime
and punishment and the protection of the public - must be given special
treatment. Because their jobs are hard and they deal with the worst in
society, so every once and a while they do what the criminal does -
they lie, cheat, steal, tamper. Dr. Charles Smith will undoubtedly
defend the actions that sent innocent people to jail as actions taken
in the interest of “greater good.” Under the stress of a stressful
profession - these men and women break laws, trust and sacred oaths -
because it is very difficult not to do so.
disturbing trend this leads to is a growing acceptance of lawlessness
by authoritarians - because the world is increasingly a lawless place.
So what if our top law enforcement officers use a little torture to
coerce confessions? Don’t you feel safer knowing there are tough guys
out there putting away tough criminals? You go soft on crime and soon
the criminal will be raping your daughter and stealing your SUV.
Charles Smith apparently took the law into his own hands. Torture,
coercion, framing, tampering, are all acceptable actions for
authoritarians today. But authoritarian is not the right word. When
law enforcement agents, cops, prosecuting attorneys and pathologists
break laws with impunity, the right word is, totalitarian.