On October 2, 2018, O’Neil Blackett joined the Innocence Canada family as the 22nd person to be exonerated with the support of Innocence Canada. O’Neil’s day in court fell on another important day for the wrongly convicted around the globe, the 5th annual wrongful conviction day.
O’Neil is yet another victim of the now disgraced former pathologist Charles Smith. On February 10, 1999, O’Neil was arrested and charged for the death of his 13 month old daughter, Tamara, which took place two days earlier while he was babysitting her. The Crown alleged that Tamara died from asphyxiation caused by O’Neil.
Charles Smith performed the autopsy and testified at the preliminary hearing. In August of 2001, facing the possibility of being convicted of second degree murder, O’Neil did as many other innocent individuals have done, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to three years and three months in addition to the 15 months he spent in pre-trial custody.
O’Neil was granted an extension of time to file an appeal by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. In 2017, the Crown consented to granting O’Neil a new trial, and on October 2, 2018, the Crown withdrew their charges against him.
The day following the court’s decision, Innocence Canada hosted a reception to acknowledge its 25th Anniversary and Wrongful Conviction Day. O’Neil was ecstatic to attend. He joined the other wrongly convicted in attendance and marched with them as they were led in by bagpiper Rory Gus Sinclair to Convocation Hall at the Law Society of Ontario. O’Neil was welcomed with uproarious applause by the wrongly convicted and all those in attendance as he proudly held up a T-shirt gifted to him that read “INNOCENT” on the front and had a list of names of the wrongly convicted, including his, on the back.
It was a moment that the wrongly convicted, their families, Innocence Canada and their supporters will never forget and will be remembered at each future Wrongful Conviction Day reception.
O’Neil can now move forward and pursue his dreams, aspirations and goals that for far too long didn’t seem possible because of the incompetence of Charles Smith.
We are incredibly humbled by O’Neil’s strength throughout his lengthy involvement in the criminal justice system. We congratulate both O’Neil and his lawyer, James Lockyer, for their dedication and victory.
We wish O’Neil Blackett and his family a bright, happy and fulfilling future.