FORENSICS | WHY FORENSIC ODONTOLOGY FAILS: AN ONGOING INNOCENCE PROJECT CASE

This blog  relays multiple tales of inferior forensic science that has taken a serious toll on the lives of innocent criminal defendants. Page 4, as mentioned below, has a persuasive story  about Gerald Richardson’s years long struggle to be freed from jail because of an erroneous bite mark analysis and opinion from a forensic dentist certified as a “Diplomate” of the AMERICAN BOARD OF FORENSIC ODONTOLOGY, which is enabled in its sponsorship by the  AMERICAN ACADEMY OF FORENSIC SCIENCES .

The following excerpt information and bottom link are from the Innocence Project’s Winter 2013 Newsletter. Maddy DeLone, the IP Executive Director, starts it on page 3.

“A cornerstone of the Innocence Project’s work, DNA testing is a powerful forensic discipline that can determine innocence or guilt. Although commonly referred to as forensic sciences, DNA testing is the only forensic discipline that is used to match a defendant to a crime scene that has been scientifically validated. Tragically, unvalidated and improper forensics have contributed to half of the 311 wrongful convictions in this country overturned by DNA evidence. The case of Gerard Richardson (pictured on the cover) is a recent example. For 19 years, Gerard was locked away after being falsely convicted of murder. On October 28, a Somerset, New Jersey, judge vacated Gerard’s conviction based on new DNA testing. A major factor that contributed to his conviction was the testimony of a forensic dentist who claimed that Gerard’s teeth matched a bite mark on the victim, but DNA revealed that the bite was made by another man (see “Why Forensic Odontology Fails” on page 4). Although bite mark analysis has been shown to be highly questionable as an investigative tool, it and other unreliable forensic practices are still used in criminal prosecutions. The Innocence Project is working in Congress and in the courts to ensure that forensic techniques are rooted in empirical evidence and not simply guided by the subjective experience of forensic examiners.”

Page 4, begins,

“For more than 30 years in the United States, bite mark evidence has been routinely used to identify the perpetrators of violent crime by “matching” a suspect’s teeth to an impression on the victim’s skin. But bite mark analysis is not based on scientific research. The ongoing case of Gerard Richardson, who was recently released from prison in New Jersey, shows why bite mark analysis should not be used as evidence of guilt at a criminal trial. The dentists who specialize in bite mark identification — just one of the facets of forensic dentistry — are known as forensic odontologists. Their work includes comparing bite marks and dental casts from defendants to marks left on victims’ bodies. Since 2000, at least 24 innocent men whose convictions and/or arrests were based on evidence “matching” their teeth to impressions on human skin have been cleared.

There could be many more people who were wrongly convicted based on this evidence.” (italics added).  Go to the IP’s Winter 2013 Newsletter

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, ABFO, Bite Marks, Bitemarks, exoneration, junk forensic science and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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