webinar register page

Webinar banner
Stolen Lives: The Perils of False Guilty Pleas | Vies brisées: les risques des faux plaidoyers de culpabilité
In 1992, Maria Shepherd was 21 and pregnant when she chose to plead guilty, despite being innocent, to manslaughter in the death of her three-year-old stepdaughter. Ms. Shepherd will describe the circumstances that led her to make this choice, the devastating impact it had on her and her family's life and her 30-year fight to clear her name.
This will be followed by a discussion between a panel of experienced members of the criminal justice system on topics such as: How often do false guilty pleas occur? What are the known factors that contribute to them? What can judges, Crown attorneys and defence counsel do to prevent them?

This 2-hour webinar is co-sponsored by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Heads of Prosecutions Sub Committee on the Prevention of Wrongful Convictions and Courthouse Libraries BC.

Participants may claim up to 2 hrs of CPD with LSBC, including 0.5 hours of Ethics credit.

Simultaneous translation in French will be provided.

En 1992, Maria Shepherd avait 21 ans et était enceinte lorsqu'elle a choisi de plaider coupable, malgré son innocence, d'homicide involontaire dans la mort de sa belle-fille de trois ans. Mme Shepherd décrira les circonstances qui l'ont amenée à faire ce choix, l'impact dévastateur qu'il a eu sur sa vie et celle de sa famille et son combat de 30 ans pour laver son nom.

Cette présentation sera suivie d'une discussion entre un panel de membres expérimentés du système de justice pénale sur des sujets tels que : Quelle est la fréquence des faux plaidoyers de culpabilité ? Quels sont les facteurs connus qui y contribuent ? Que peuvent faire les juges, les procureurs de la Couronne et les avocats de la défense pour les prévenir ?

Ce webinaire de deux heures est coparrainé par le Sous-comité des Chefs des poursuites fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux sur la prévention des condamnations injustifiées et Courthouse Libraries BC.

Une traduction simultanée sera assurée.

Nov 24, 2021 12:00 PM in Vancouver

Webinar logo
* Required information


Maria Shepherd
Maria Shepherd was 21-years-old, with two young children and pregnant with her third child when she was charged with causing the death of her three-and-a-half-year-old step-daughter, Kasandra, on April 24, 1991. The linchpin of Maria’s case was the flawed evidence of Dr. Charles Smith who was at the time revered as a paediatric forensic pathologist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. In October 1992, Maria was under extreme pressure and concern that the Children’s Aid Society would take her children if she continued to claim innocence. She desperately wanted to keep her family together and when her lawyer, Tom Wiley consulted with a pathologist who felt Smith’s opinion was valid, Maria felt she had no choice but to plead guilty to manslaughter. In May 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal allowed Maria to appeal her conviction, but it took another seven years of waiting and hoping before her case was heard and her plea was rendered void.
Professor Kent Roach
@University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Kent Roach is the author of 17 books, a co-editor of 13 collection of essays and the author of over 250 articles. His most recent books are Remedies for Human Rights Violations, published by Cambridge University Press and (with R.J. Sharpe) and The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 7th ed published by Irwin Law in 2021. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002; appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2015 and awarded the Molson Prize for contributions to the social sciences and humanities in 2017. He has represented pro bono Indigenous organizations, civil liberties groups and the David Asper Centre in 12 Supreme Court cases including Gladue, Corbiere, Sauve, Golden, Ipeelee, Latimer, Ward, Khawaja, Downtown Eastside Sex Workers, Conseil Francophone and Ontario v. G. He is a former clerk to the late Justice Bertha Wilson and a Professor of Law at the University of Toronto. He was director of research for the Goudge Commission on Forensic Pathology.
Honorable Justice Renee Pomerance
@Ontario Superior Court
Justice Renee Pomerance has been a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice since 2006. She is currently the Local Administrative Judge of the Windsor Court. Prior to her appointment, she was counsel with the Crown Law Office - Criminal in Toronto, where she appeared at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. During a two-year leave absence in 2002-2003, Justice Pomerance served as Counsel to the Honourable Peter Cory on “The Collusion Inquiry”, an inquiry in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland which examined allegations of state collusion in six cases of paramilitary murder. From December 2003 to September 2004, she worked as Senior Advisor with the National Judicial Institute. She was awarded the Milvain Chair in Advocacy (University of Calgary) in 2005. Throughout her career, Justice Pomerance has been actively involved in legal education programs for the bar and bench.
Brandon Rolle
Managing Lawyer of the Halifax Youth Justice Office @Nova Scotia Legal Aid
Brandon Rolle is a graduate of the 2009 class of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 2010. He worked in private practice for a short time then joined Nova Scotia Legal Aid in 2013. Since 2017, Brandon has been the Managing Lawyer of the Halifax Youth Justice Office. Brandon is co-chair of the Equity and Racial Diversity Committee within Nova Scotia Legal Aid and also a member of the Racial Equity Committee & Criminal Standards Committee with the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. He is a member of the board at HomeBridge Youth Society and sits on the African Nova Scotian Access to Justice Judicial Committee. Brandon is passionate about issues of race and culture for African Nova Scotian & Indigenous clients and continues to advance these issues in the courtroom and in the profession at large.
Wendy Stephen, Q.C.
Senior Crown Counsel @BC Prosecution Service
Wendy Stephen, Q.C. is a major crime prosecutor with the B.C. Prosecution Service, having prosecuted approximated 55 homicide cases over her career. Wendy was called to the Bar of B.C. in 1983. She first practised as a labour lawyer. After getting her Masters of Laws degree at the University of Cambridge, England, she joined the Crown Counsel office in Vancouver and later moved to the New Westminster office where she has been since 1991. Wendy is a Past President of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association and the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. She has been involved in the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) since 1998. She sat on the IAP’s Executive Committee for several years, including as Vice President for North America from 2007-2014. When Wendy is not prosecuting homicide cases, she mentors and teaches advocacy through various professional organizations including the Canadian Bar Association, The Advocates’ Society and the B.C. Prosecution Service.
Mark Scott, Q.C.
Chief Crown Attorney @Appeals and Special Prosecutions, Nova Scotia Prosecution Service
Mark Scott, QC, is Chief Crown Attorney, Appeals and Special Prosecutions, Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service. Born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador, he graduated from University of New Brunswick Law in 1994. He articled with the Crown Office in St. John’s and began his career as a Crown Attorney, with a brief stint as defence counsel before moving to Halifax. He did defence and Crown agency work before joining the NSPPS full time in 1998. He joined Special Prosecutions in 2000 and Appeals in 2007. Mark became Chief of the newly merged Appeals and Special Prosecutions in 2019. He has been Second Vice President of the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society since June 2021. Mark is married, with one son who just started second year at Memorial University, and a cat. He is a big soccer fan.