The bitemark experts once AGAIN, promise that they will do better. Read the following recent website posting from their head honcho. As usual, nothing about how where all this new reliability comes from. All his “good” cases sums his defense. “The ABFO has excluded far more people than they ever included.” Of course, the ones they included in 24 cases were innocent and the ones excluded never knew how close they came to their doom. This self-serving ratio of Loomis’ “risk vs benefit” statement is off-the cuff. His audience is small. and growing smaller.
The New York Times printed an article on 9/16/2014 faulting “bite-mark forensics.” It highlights an appeal recently filed by the Mississippi Innocence Project with the Mississippi Supreme Court, of 22 year old case in which bite mark testimony was provided by Dr. Michael West. Like every news article, there are misstatements and some erroneous information is given. In particular, the author parrots the flawed Innocence Project publicity that 17 people previously convicted based on “expert bite matches” have been exonerated by DNA evidence. The IP often uses the number of 24 so it least the number is down a bit, but in actuality the number is 10, and of these, five of the opinions were not “match” as the article mentions but a lesser opinion. While any number of wrongful convictions is unacceptable and we are all cognizant of the fact that some terrible mistakes have been made in the past, we cannot ignore the fact that hundreds of positive outcomes have occurred throughout the country wherein bite mark evidence played a crucial role in the judicial process to assist the triers of fact. The ABFO continues to make changes to ensure accuracy of expert opinions. The ABFO has developed the Bitemark Analysis and Comparison Decision Tree, is continuing to develop a bitemark proficiency examination, has significantly raised the bitemark and other requirements for examination eligibility for new candidates, requires recertifying diplomates to take a recertification examination and has revised the standards, guidelines and terminology for bitemark analysis.
Peter W. Loomis, DDS, D-ABFO
President – American Board of Forensic Odontology
Today’s subject is a brief look back at how pattern evidence from bruised human skin got into the case law of every state in the US. Its not a pretty process, as I describe below.
Scientists learn from their past studies which includes unsuccessful experimentation. The recognition and use old data to construct new theories and experimental hypotheses is part of scientific progress. But scientific tenets don’t seem to apply to dentists who deal in bitemark IDs. They liken themselves as still being relevant for courts. One caveat: these days they disappear when DNA is available
Assumptions of personal rather than fact of empirically proven nature were and still are acceptable by judges and rules of evidence. One past AAFS/ABFO president (among other forensic types) said, after the 2009 NAS Report on bitemarks laid out all its “scientific” mumbo-jumbo”, that hard scientific proofs (meaning testing that allows repeatability…
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