“I appreciate that my words today may seem inadequate,” Justice Michael Brown told Marquardt after the Crown withdrew the murder charge that had accused her of killing her two-year-old son.
“But I offer to you, Ms. Marquardt, my deepest expression of regret for all you gave endured as a result of the miscarriage of justice in this case.”
Marquardt, 38, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.
“Nothing I can say to you today will repair the damage that has been caused to you,” Brown continued.
“I can’t imagine what it must gave been like for you to have to bear the burden of not only losing your child Kenneth,” he said, “but also to have had to deal with being convicted of killing your son ... And spending 13 years in jail as a result.”
In the hallway later, Marquardt embraced supporters, who burst into applause. “The one thing that never should have happened has ended,” she told them. “Now Kenneth can rest in peace.”
Asked how she felt, Marquardt said, “I don’t think there’s a word for it. Relief. I. Am. Free.
“Honestly, I never thought I would see this day,” she added. “I never thought I would see justice.”
Marquardt said she had assumed the criminal justice system would stand by now-discredited pathologist Charles Smith. “Who am I?” she said. “Why would they believe me?”
Among those who came to the courthouse to support Marquardt was Romeo Phillion, who spent 34 years in prison for a 1967 murder. His conviction was quashed last year.
Also on hand was Maria Shepherd, who was also charged on the basis of Smith’s evidence. Her case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, awaiting review.
The charge against Marquardt was based on a flawed opinion from Smith about what caused the child’s death in 1993.
Today’s development finally concludes the criminal case against her.
She was convicted of second-degree murder in 1995 and spent more than 13 years behind bars, most recently at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
As a result of her conviction, Marquardt also lost custody of two sons born after Kenneth – one now 16, and the other now 14.
Two years ago, Marquardt was released on bail. The Ontario Court of Appeal quashed her conviction and ordered a new trial in February after the Crown and Marquardt’s lawyer, James Lockyer, submitted it was the only legal remedy available.
But the lack of fresh evidence in the case made a new trial unlikely.
Smith said tiny red marks on the child’s lungs and chest indicated Kenneth he had been asphyxiated and went on to suggest the most likely method was manual strangulation or suffocation.
In quashing Marquardt’s conviction, the appeal court said the new medical evidence “completely undermines” Smith’s opinion and indicates that, at most, the cause of death could be classified as “unascertained.”
The fresh evidence, the court said, also suggests Kenneth may have suffered a sudden, unexplained death related to epilepsy.
He had been treated eight times for seizures and was on epilepsy medication.
Marquardt said she found him in his room, tangled in bed sheets, not breathing.
She made a frantic 911 call.
Smith’s cases were reviewed by a panel of experts on the directions of Ontario’s chief coroner.
The panel found he made mistakes in at least 20.
After her conviction was quashed in February, Marquardt said she wants her name placed on an adoption registry so if her sons want her in their lives, they can find her. “My arms,” she said, “are open.”