Editorial on New York Times article about Faulty Bitemark Forensics

The September 15, 2014, New York Times exclusive on the failure of bitemark identification resurging in a MS death penalty case describes a botched bitemark method by one practitioner, that until 2013, was recognized by the forensic organization mentioned in the article. The  shocking truth is that the story of Eddie Lee Howard can also be generalized to that same group’s other casework.

The current primary bitemark apologist and guardian of the bitemark “board,” Peter Loomis, had some chilling comments in yesterday’s  New York Times article while he was avoiding the light of the numerous wrongful convictions his colleagues have aided over the decades. He clearly explains the thinking of this group. I have put his words in quotes and bold to emphasize certain of his snippets. Then I have a few comments myself.

 “Dr. Peter W. Loomis, a consultant in dental forensics in Albuquerque and president of the discipline’s professional body, the American Board of Forensic Odontology, did not dispute the academy’s conclusions (the 2009 National academy of Sciences report that debunked bitemark “science), “but said that bite-mark analysis of still had a useful role in court.

The board has begun scientific studies, he said, to establish whether and when it can produce reliable identifications. A narrowing of the pool of likely suspects might be possible, for example, when the bite marks are clear and obvious, when the number of potential biters is known and limited, and if suspects have contrasting dental patterns.”

Here’s my response to Peter Loomis: All past bitemark “positive” identification cases (since their US court room acceptance in 1975) need to be independently reviewed. Exactly like the erroneous forensic history of the FBI’s bullet lead and hair forensic debacles.

In his own words, he makes this an abundantly clear and convincing necessity.

1) Loomis’ little dental group has spent 5 years saying, both in and out of courts, that the 2009 NAS committee was not their “scientific community’s” overseers on their forensic “science.” 2) “scientific studies” by the ABFO are, at best, the worse examples (they only have 3 papers claimed to be validity testing) of data “cooking” and misdirected conclusions I have ever seen in any professional journal. Also, I do not expect the ABFO to have been cured of their pattern of obtuse rejection and personal harassment of other more qualified research professionals who oppose their sanctimonious “place in the courts.” (3) “narrowing of the pool” means that these experts do not know the dental profile (i.e. tooth position) distribution (a protection against false results) derived from any population studies. As a substitute for such data, the ABFO now expects law enforcement to tell them who the “likely suspects’ are in any particular case. That is the height of expectational bias and would not by allowed in any competently certified crime lab. These folks do not work in crime labs.  (4) every ABFO member who has worked for law enforcement states or implies that the bitemark injury is “clear and obvious.” That’s what they say to both judges and juries. A typical bitemark expert on the witness stand is allowed to say, “see it for yourself”  (5) “known and limited” is the same as 3). (5) The last one, “if…..contrasting dental patterns,” assumes a premise that the NAS in 2009 patently rejected. The premise (i.e. assumption) the ABFO and Loomis stands on is: It is possible, if you see supposed teeth marks in a bruise, that the pattern accurately represents the shape of a suspect’s teeth.

So, does the ABFO, according to Loomis, really agree with the 2009 NAS Report?

Answer: not even a little bit. BTW, The NAS in 2009 referenced a number of my papers as a foundation for their final opinions. Some past ABFO president has written that the NAS were “mislead.”

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in Forensic Science, forensic science reform, junk forensic science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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