Mind Over Murder: DNA and Other Forensic Adventures
Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.
Jack Batten is a former lawyer who has penned books on many topics but
is best-known for several about the law, to which he returns here to
“wipe away some of the mystery about DNA profiling and shed light on
other pieces of magic” that scientists use in solving crimes. He does
so in five chapters, each (except the infamous trial and appeal of
Steven Truscott) centred on a specific criminal case from the 1990s.
Batten takes us through a variety of scientific investigation
techniques, including “forensic accounting,” but the longest part,
“The Case of the Perfect Science,” deals with DNA—its discovery,
its first use in a criminal investigation (in England), and its much
larger role in a lengthy trial in Toronto. Diagrams help the reader
understand the process of taking “genetic fingerprints” (a patented
term) and an epilogue describes how DNA evidence brought a merciful end
to the lengthy and tragic ordeal of Guy Paul Morin.
Canada, one learns, has been a world leader in forensic science. For
nearly 20 years, the only forensic laboratory in North America was in
Montreal. J. Edgar Hoover visited it twice before establishing a lab in
Washington. An investigative tool called the Luma-Lite was invented at
the National Research Council in Ottawa and the RCMP were in the
business of fibre analysis in the 1930s, about 20 years before the FBI.
There is, unfortunately, no index. Neither is there any documentation.
When Batten quotes from a 1994 statement by the only surviving Supreme
Court judge of the Truscott appeal,
we do not know if this is from a published article or an interview.
There are niggling errors:
it is impossible to take Highway 8 west out of Toronto when its
easternmost point is Kitchener; Sherlock Holmes never smoked a cocaine
pipe. And one is occasionally irritated by an overly informal writing
style; all men, cops or killers, are “guys.” These quibbles aside,
this is an informative and fascinating read.