The clash of the scientific and legal cultures in the courtroom, though theoretically directed at finding the truth, is marked by tension. Forensic science — science applied to the legal context — advances rapidly and has undergone dramatic changes in recent years. In contrast, the law embraces finality in administering justice and struggles to change with evolving scientific knowledge. Improving the scientific literacy of the legal community, however, may help to mitigate this tension.
To that end, this guide provides criminal lawyers, defence and Crown alike, with a macroscopic view of multiple forensic science disciplines, specific to the Canadian legal system and written by Canadian experts. Facilitating further case-specific research, this guide seeks to reinvigorate dialogue and improve collaboration between the forensic and legal communities in Canada, and contribute to the effective functioning of a fair and reasonable criminal justice system.
Caitlin M. Pakosh, HBSc, JD, has been working as case management counsel of Innocence Canada (formerly known as AIDWYC) since 2012 and is responsible for managing the Association’s cases across Canada. She obtained her honours bachelor of science degree, specializing in forensic anthropology and earning a minor in biology, from the University of Toronto Mississauga in 2008. Her undergraduate thesis, which examined the decomposition of dismembered pig limbs enclosed in plastic bags and submerged in Lake Ontario, was conducted during her internship with the Toronto Police Service Marine Unit and published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2009. Ms. Pakosh obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Calgary in 2011. She has appeared in the Court of Appeal for Ontario and has worked on intervener and appellate cases that have appeared at a variety of levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as ministerial review applications. Since 2013, Ms. Pakosh has cross-examined forensic science students in annual mock trials at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where students practise being expert witnesses. She is a member of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is also an associate member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.
This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.