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Defence at Burnaby murder trial questions independence of autopsy doctor

When defence lawyer Ben Lynskey asked how much the Crown is paying Dr. Jason Morin, the forensic pathologist who autopsied the 13-year-old victim in the Ibrahim Ali murder trial, the Crown objected and the judge disallowed the question.
BC Supreme Court Vancouver

The defence at a Burnaby murder trial doubled-down on questions about the independence and impartiality of a forensic pathologist who autopsied the body of a 13-year-old girl found dead in a Burnaby park six years ago.

The cross-examination of Dr. Jason Morin wrapped up at the trial of Ibrahim Ali in Vancouver Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

Ali is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of the teen, whose body was found in Burnaby’s Central Park on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing.

Ali has pleaded not guilty.

The victim’s identity is protected by a publication ban.

Earlier in the trial, Morin said he believed the victim’s cause of death was strangulation and his “initial observations” of her injuries suggested she may have been sexually assaulted.

During cross-examination, however, Ali’s lawyer, Ben Lynskey offered alternative explanations for the findings that had led Morin to conclude the girl had been strangled and possibly sexually assaulted.

Then, wrapping up his cross-examination Wednesday morning, Lynskey took aim at Morin’s impartiality and independence as a witness.

He pointed to a close working relationship between Morin as a forensic pathologist and police and noted Morin had had multiple meetings with Crown before the trial.

Lynskey also noted Morin had testified in court as an expert witness 35, exclusively for the Crown.

Morin said he’d never been asked to testify for the defence.

“You are not an independent witness, are you Dr. Morin?" Lynskey said.  “You’re working for the Crown in the prosecution of this case, right?”

“No, I’ve been asked by the Crown to come and give my evidence as pertains to my autopsy and what my opinions on that are,” Morin said.

Lynskey then pointed out Morin was being paid by the Crown.

“Are you saying that being paid by one side and not the other is independence?” Lynskey asked.

“I would say any expert witness that comes to testify in a trial is paid for their time and that compensation is done usually by the side that calls that expert witness,” Morin said.

Morin said it was commonplace for expert witnesses to be compensated for their time.

“And, to be clear, that compensation for my time is not for my opinion, it is for my time, Mr. Lynskey,” Morin said.

When Lynskey asked how much Morin was being paid, however, the Crown raised an objection, and Justice Lance Bernard disallowed the question.

The trial continues Thursday.

DNA expert Christine Crossman is expected to take the stand. 

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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