Episode 71: Life After Wrongful Conviction: Maria Shepherd’s Story

Dignity – Oct 2023

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Episode 71: Life After Wrongful Conviction: Maria Shepherd’s Story
Broadcast Date: October 2, 2023


In 1992, at the age of 23 and pregnant with her fourth child, Maria Shepherd plead guilty to manslaughter in the death of her three-year-old stepdaughter, Kasandra, to avoid a much longer sentence which would have torn her away from her family. 25 years later, she was acquitted on the basis of new forensic expert evidence. She has realized her dream of becoming a licensed paralegal and runs her own paralegal practice. In this episode with her friend and UBC Innocence Project Director Tamara Levy, Maria Shepherd explains the myriad of experiences and tragic consequences that resulted from her wrongful conviction, and how it still affects her life.


In 1991, Maria Shepherd was 21 years of age when she was charged in connection with her stepdaughter’s death. On the strength of the evidence of former and disgraced pathologist, Charles Smith, Maria, in desperation to save her family, entered a false guilty plea in 1992 and was wrongly convicted of manslaughter.

It would take 25 years for Maria to clear her name. On February 29, 2016,  the late Honourable Justice Marc Rosenberg would overturn her conviction.

Later that year, Maria would successfully be licensed by the Law Society of Ontario as a Paralegal – something Maria had been waiting for since 2010. In October 2016, Maria was welcomed by the Law Society of Ontario as a Paralegal. Maria then opened her paralegal practice, Shepherd Advocacy & Litigation.

In 2018, Maria became a Co-Director on the Board of Innocence Canada, formerly the Association In Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (the same organization that provided support to Maria, with James Lockyer as her lead Appellate Counsel).

Today, Maria continues to be a staunch advocate against wrongful convictions and sheds light on its devastating domino effects on both the wrongly convicted and their families. As part of Maria’s work, she advocates for a more in-depth plea inquiry process and for a much more careful approach in qualifying “experts” and acceptance of their evidence.

Maria has spoken at events in both Canada and the United States.


Tamara Levy, K.C. is the co-founder and Director of the UBC Innocence Project at the Allard School of Law where she has taught as an adjunct professor and lecturer since 2004. She graduated from Osgoode Hall Law school in 1996, articled with the Ontario Ministry of Attorney General and then Peck and Tammen (now Peck and Co.) in Vancouver, B.C.. She was called to the British Columbia bar in 1998. She has practised as both defence and crown counsel. She taught the evidence seminar focusing on wrongful convictions from 2004–2007 and has lectured on the topic of wrongful convictions for lawyers, judges, students and the general public since that time. She is also a co-founder and a current Director of the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society in British Columbia.

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