Tag Archives: Wrongful convictions

Emma Cunliffe on Women & Wrongful Convictions


Prof. Cunliffe visited York a long time ago (November 2013, my apologies for being so behind, here is the original announcement)  & gave a talk as part of the Socio-Legal Studies Speaker Series about work she and Prof. Deb Parkes are doing on Wrongful Convictions & Women.  Provides interesting overview of studies of wrongful convictions generally and identifies ways that the parameters and discourse of the field may exclude consideration of women’s experiences of wrongful conviction.

Possible teaching tool – or of course for your own edification.

via ▶ Women and Wrongful Convictions: Learning from ‘difference’ – YouTube.

Day* old tweets (* may be slightly optimistic)

somewhat messy looking birdONE thing about Rob Ford

[because this quote is TOO fantastic] ♥ APerry re Ford: “The first rule of white club is you do not speak abt whiteness. This is perhaps esp true in Canada” http://bit.ly/1dbFqSG 

The challenge of pictures….

[this week the LSUC released the news that Ryerson won the contract to deliver the LPP.  The OBA, involved somehow with the Ryerson efforts, announced the arrival of the somewhat controversial program with a picture that…surprised me]

what is your reaction to this,  ontario  lawyer  WOC ? photo from OBA webpage re  LPP . 2nd tier? pic.twitter.com/fEoTJ1BVaQ

cover page of OBA website - four women, at least three visible minorities, in a law library type space.  Headline underneath: Alternatives to articling.


Join in/Nominate/Submit

Big Berkshire Conference on the  History of  Women in  Toronto May 2014 Early Bird $$ till Jan.15 h/t MJMossman

Social Policy Assoc ‏@SocialPolicyUK CFP  Feminist Review on ‘The Politics of Austerity’: http://bit.ly/167wsmy 

LSA “2nd Half Century Junior Scholars [short] Essay Competition” http://bit.ly/Ip23sk  see the question and details on LSA website.

know a worthy candidate? “Laura Legge Award recognizes Ont  women  lawyers who exemplify  leadership ” http://bit.ly/HSt2w8   Nominate

At the Law Schools


RT @KatieBrack: Excellent “What I learned at law school: The poor need not apply”  Osgoode  Tuition http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/what-i-learned-at-law-school-the-poor-need-not-apply/article15443887/ dashboard/follows/ … @

1/2  Accessibility of lawschool ($$ & otherwise) = defining issue, bc of the impact it has on other critical issues. Who’s in the building?

2/2 what gets understood, demanded, built on? who will be  lawyers  lawprofs  judges in our future? What is this  profession abt?  service


Thanks Osgoode  Feminist Collective for making/taking space in the  lawschool. Presence matters. pic.twitter.com/FdlAl6XkQN

photo of posters describing "why i am a feminist" up at the law school


Events you Missed

(you wish you were there): Emma Cunliffe (UBC) at York

(you may be relieved to have missed this) I become Highly Irritated at the Munk Debate:“the end of men”

@ munk debate on the end of men w/ @blberger (not obsolete – he got the tix). Already quite annoyed. http://www.munkdebates.com/ 

Maybe this poster explains my annoyance? Strangely, @Blberger does not seem to find my asides as funny as i do. pic.twitter.com/CYaBiidjZq

[during the debate]

So many refs to animal procreation: feels like popculture sociobiologists convention.  MunkDebate @blberger still doesnt think i’m funny

Rosin wants to help men, as their era of dominance ends. Paglia (con) is concerned abt feminist denigration of men & end of female glamour.

I just….cannot. Audience giggling. @blberger say not usual  Munkdebate form. So, this aint an intersectional space.

Given this  munkdebate is clearly just an intellectual jello wrestle, seems churlish to point to lack of intersectional analysis excpt class

Here @munkdebate class analysis=way to hide, not reveal, plutocrat driven rising inequality. Oh wait! Here we go It isnt gender but class.

1 i like Caitlin Moran best = proof of problem 2 Toronto room, primed on Ford, v sympathetic to poor working class men.

Now Naomi Wolf is here via tape talking about …oh, anyway. Now: but patriarchy is alive & well in (name country white ppl dont live)

Rosin is, to be fair, taking that on. It was Rudyard Griffith (moderator) who made the claim

Rosin talking abt swedish mat leave of a year. Does she know what country this is? @blberger says “we” always =US at  munkdebates

Now is the part where we reassure the men that this is all about how we love then.  bechdelfail

[post debate conclusion]

16 Nov @kootenaydreams debate not worth taking too seriously in the end, which i suppose was the point. Women – not to be taken seriously.







This Friday: Emma Cunliffe at SLST Series: Women and Wrongful Convictions: Learning from 'difference'

The Socio-Legal Studies 2013-2014 Speaker Series 

Friday, November 22, 2013  2:30 – 4:00pm

Ross South 701 

Dr. Emma Cunliffe

Faculty of Law University of British Columbia

Women and Wrongful Convictions:  Learning from Difference

E. Cunliffe

Dr. Emma Cunliffe is an Associate Professor in the UBC Faculty of Law.  Dr. Cunliffe’s research focuses on medical, scientific and behavioural evidence in criminal trials; and more generally considers the interplay between expert knowledges, common sense and legal reasoning. She is the author of Murder, Medicine and Motherhood (Hart Publishing, 2011) which examines the case of Kathleen Folbigg, a mother who was convicted of murdering her children based on misleading medical evidence. Her book demonstrates how legal process, medical knowledge and expectations of motherhood work together when a mother is charged with killing infants who have died in mysterious circumstances. With funding from SSHRC, she is working with Professor Christine Boyle on a project examining child homicide cases in Canada. Dr Cunliffe is a member of the editorial board for the International Journal of Evidence & Proof.  At UBC, she teaches criminal law, evidence and a graduate seminar in research methodologies and has won the Killam Award for Teaching Excellence and the George Curtis Memorial Award for Teaching.

 Co-Sponsored by: Criminology and the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies



Wrongfully convicted single mothers – and others – to be "compensated"

Sherry Sherrett
Tammy Marquardt

The Province of Ontario has announced that it will grant compensation to those people charged or convicted based on evidence provided by former Coroner Dr. Charles Smith.

The Goudge Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario included testimony about Dr. Smith’s negative opinion of single mothers (around pp.126-132], (here too, around pp. 38-40) and indeed a significant number of the cases where compensation will be offered involve women

Prof. Emma Cunliffe, UBC Faculty of Law

Prof. Emma Cunliffe, appointed to UBC’s Faculty of Law in 2008 and an award winning teacher, is an expert on these cases (she’s presented at the National Judicial Institute, and has a SSRHC grant to take this work further).  I’m looking forward to her forthcoming book, since unless you’ve been lucky enough to hear her talk about it, she’s saved it all for the book!  Make yourself a google alert, or watch for it here.

Emma Cunliffe, Making the Case? Murder, Medicine & Motherhood (Oxford: Hart Publishing , forthcoming 2011)

Emma generously sent me her comments:

“….15 of the 24 people wrongly accused of child homicide by Smith were women. All of those women who had surviving children lost custody in care proceedings, or surrendered them by consent to alternative caregivers.  …..[W]hen a woman was the alleged protagonist, and SIDS an alternative cause of death, Smith tended to assert that the “true” cause of death was smothering or asphyxiation.  Smith generally (with one notable exception – R. v. S.M.) only accused men of shaking; seemingly in accordance with his belief that men and women commit child homicides in identifiably different ways.  He testified to this belief in some court cases.

In addition to the great number of women among Smith’s victims, those who were wrongly accused were disproportionately likely to be aboriginal or people of colour; poor; and otherwise marginalized.  Even before they suffered the inconceivable horror of losing children and then facing wrongful accusations; many of these families were struggling to get by.

To me, Ontario’s compensation “offer” is not only insulting, it demonstrates that government institutions fail to respect and value the lives of those who are poor or marginalized.  For the most part, Smith’s victims do not have the means to challenge the government offer, and no doubt they are exhausted after years of battling for any form of recognition of the injustice that has been done.”

Photos of some of the people wrongly charged or convicted on Charles Smith’s evidence are from the Globe and Mail (click here for link to article)

There are really interesting parallels and contrasts between this situation and the cases involving Dr Sir Roy Meadows in the UK.  Here’s a link to an article which provides most of the salient points. Again, mothers were convicted of killing their children, and Dr. Meadows testimony was critical to their convictions – and seriously flawed.  But one of those women was a solicitor and another a pharmacist.  All had multiple children die in infancy.  And Dr. Meadows wasn’t a coroner.

Which leads us to some of the other issues floating around.  Why didn’t Dr. Smith’s work raise serious questions much earlier than it did?  Why did crown counsel keep calling him even after questions were raised?  Why didn’t defence counsel manage to challenge him?  These questions take us beyond Dr. Smith, beyond the coroners office, and into the ethics of prosecutors, the role of the investigating police,  and the limited amount legal aid ontario will allow for expert witnesses in criminal trials – which usually mean that only local experts can be called.   Maybe even to the incredible popularity of criminal/forensics television shows like CSI which encourage us to treat science as a kind of magic both infalliable and incomprehensible to mortals.

Maureen Laidley
Dinesh Kumar
William Mullins-Johnson
Brenda Waudby