James G. Wigmore, Forensic Toxicologist, Speaker, Author

Not all books are penned as a result of an eureka moment and, in fact, Wigmore on Alcohol is the culmination of a journey of discovery that occurred over my 35+ year career in forensic alcohol toxicology. I’m hopeful that doesn’t make my story any less interesting and thought I’d share it as part of this inaugural website launch.

I joined the Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in 1976 as a junior technician. My job was to repair all the Breathalyzers operated by the police forces in the Province of Ontario. Being in the right place at the right time is how I think of those early years of my career. Mentored by then Director, Doug Lucas and Ron Hallett, Assistant Head of the Toxicology Section, I got a great start and became fascinated by the various aspects of forensic alcohol toxicology. So inspired was I by my interactions with scientists, police, crown attorneys, defense lawyers and judges, that I eventually headed back to university to complete my 4 year B.Sc.

In the early days, I collected studies on the various areas of forensic alcohol toxicology – particularly in breath alcohol research – because they aided my education and allowed me to form a basis and build support for my scientific opinion in court. As I type this, I am struck by an image of those early days of hand written reports and secretaries that typed them out on “onion skin” all the while I type this blog for the world to read…how times have changed!

The years went by and onion skin turned into electronic file cards which turned into Endnotes. So insatiable was my appetite for knowledge that by the end of my career I had collected and itemized some 10,000 studies. My motivation was simple…be a credible and unbiased expert witness for criminal matters involving alcohol. This isn’t as simple as drinking and driving and included other criminal matters such as sexual assaults and homicides. For weeks at a time I would be on the road waiting outside of court to testify and would read and abstract alcohol papers by hand and convert them to Endnotes when I arrived home. In the hallowed hallways of Ontario’s, and Canada’s, many criminal courts, the seed which was to become my opus magnus was germinating.

Along the way I published “A Bibliography of Forensic Aspects of Alcohol (1872-1991)” and, while I’m not sure it sold a lot of books, I at least had the pleasure of seeing it listed on WorldCat.org, the world’s largest library, as well as another five libraries that spanned the world. That minor success became fodder for another publication I wrote called “Court Notes on Alcohol” in 2001 which was an improvement on my Bibliography in that it had my notes for each paper and was organized into twenty sections. I found Court Notes to be a useful reference when I went to court and it wasn’t long before other court-going toxicologists at CFS were also taking it along.

In May 2005, I retired from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. After several years of continued service to the courts testifying in four superior court jury trials of “impaired causing death”, too numerous to mention “over 80″ cases and criminal trials in British Columbia as well as Alberta, I began the epic task of writing Wigmore on Alcohol.  For approximately 8 months, clocking in 6 hours per day, every day, I poured through my alcohol reference database and selected the most relevant scientific studies that reflected scientific consensus on various forensic topics.  In March 2011, I signed an Author’s Publication Agreement with Irwin Law and then spent the next 6 months on final design and editing of Wigmore on Alcohol.

Wigmore on Alcohol represents more than my career. It represents my passion for the science of forensic alcohol toxicology.  It is my hope that as word of my book spreads and traction among court-going professionals increases, the science of forensic alcohol toxicology will become better understood and, ultimately, lead to more factual representation of the science in our courts.