TORONTO - An Ontario man who was wrongly convicted of killing his niece based in part on evidence from disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith will receive $4.25 million in compensation, the Ontario government announced Thursday.
William Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison after being found guilty in 1994 of raping and murdering the four-year-old girl in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Several experts later found no evidence to support Smith's conclusion that the girl had been sodomized and asphyxiated.
In fact, they concluded she died of natural causes.
"We're very sorry on behalf of the government of Ontario and the people of Ontario for the terrible pain and suffering that Mr. Mullins-Johnson has undergone," said Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley.
"There's no amount of money that will ever make up for, or take away from, the pain and hurt over the years."
Mullins-Johnson, 40, was one of several people who were wrongly accused of killing children based on flawed evidence from Smith, a pediatric forensic pathologist once considered the dean of his profession.
Mullins-Johnson was acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2007.
The compensation amount speaks to the 12 years an innocent man spent in prison, Bentley said.
Lawyer David Robins, who represents Mullins-Johnson, said Thursday his client is pleased the case is finally coming to an end.
"No amount of money is going to fully compensate Mr. Mullins-Johnson for the hardship that he’s endured, 12 years in prison and being labelled a sex offender, and that’s horrible and truly unfortunate," said Robins.
"He certainly welcomes the compensation, and no doubt he’s relieved to have this ordeal put behind him."
Opposition parties said he shouldn't have had to wait so long for compensation.
"I’m really pleased that it’s over for Mr. Mullins-Johnson. It took a long time — too long in my opinion," said Progressive Conservative critic Ted Chudleigh.
"It’s sad that it’s taken this long to come to this."
The New Democrats said the government should move quickly to compensate other victims of Smith, who had conducted more than 1,000 child autopsies while at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
"There are numerous people that are still waiting that have been injured in this process that were victims of Dr. Smith, and they need to have some closure, they need to have their compensation dealt with," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"The government just needs to sit down and negotiate those settlements and get closure for those folks."
In 2005, an Ontario chief coroner ordered another look at 44 autopsies that had been conducted by Smith, 13 of which had resulted in criminal charges and convictions. Two years later, a report pointed to major problems with 20 of those autopsies.
A 1,000-page report from an inquiry focused largely on Smith's flawed work slammed the doctor for his roles in wrongful prosecutions.
On Wednesday, the Ontario Appeal Court ordered new trials for two women who say they felt pressured into pleading guilty to killing their babies based on Smith's work.
Mullins-Johnson, who has dropped his lawsuit against Smith and several other doctors, declined to speak with reporters Thursday.
His lawyer said Mullins-Johnson would probably keep working on social justice issues, speaking about wrongful convictions and helping families whose children are seized by Children's Aid Societies.
"More importantly I hope he’ll spend as much time as he can enjoying his life because of the significant hardship he’s endured," said Robins.
"I think he should be entitled to live his life quietly and peacefully and enjoy it to the maximum that he can."