A Question of Evidence: A Casebook of Great Forensic Controversies, from Napoleon to O.J.

By Colin Evans | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
Steven Truscott (1959)

A Time for Dying

In late 1966 a teeth-gritted feud that had simmered for years in the mortuaries and courtrooms of Britain finally erupted into open warfare. The flash point came when two London-based pathologists were sent advance copies of a transatlantic best seller scheduled for upcoming British release. The intention was for each to read the book, ringingly endorse its controversial subject matter, add their weighty imprimatur, and thereby provide a whopping boost to sales. It didn’t work out that way. Rather, it demonstrated one of the enduring conundrums of forensic science: how similarly qualified experts, of broadly comparable experience, can analyze the same data and arrive at diametrically opposed conclusions.

The book, titled The Trial of Steven Truscott,* had caused a sensation in Canada, with its harrowing tale of a fourteen-year-old Ontario schoolboy convicted of murder in 1959 and sentenced to hang, though this was later commuted to life imprisonment. According to the book’s author, Isabel LeBourdais, Truscott had suffered a gross miscarriage of justice, an opinion shared by her British publishers, which was why they had canvassed the support of the nation’s two premier pathologists, Professors Francis Camps and Keith Simpson.

*Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

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