Let nothing surprise you when lawyers are involved in opposing litigation involving wrongful conviction disputes.
There is a civil case in Illinois, that has an exonerated man, Bennie Starks, suing the Waukegan police department and their 2 member panel of bitemark experts for $$ damages related to his legally vacated conviction for a rape in the 1980s. His exoneration is explained in this Chicago Tribune article written by Dan Hinkle (see below). You should note that the past DA of Lake County is immune from this legal action thanks to the US Supreme Court’s determination in Connick v. Thompson.
The current DA hasn’t said a word about this lawsuit, according to this new ChiTrib article.
This tactic is being used in a civil court opposing the reasons Mr. Starks was exonerated in a criminal case. As mentioned in the ChiTrib article, this vapid strategy assumes that the underlying exoneration can be still be questioned and somehow re-litigated in this case against the mentioned “authorities” described in Hinkle’s article.
Of course, This motion by the defendants in this court is all about the money. They can raise any sort of motion they want. The federal court judge decides and should vaporize it with a laser.
For decades, the ChiTrib has been following Starks’ case. To be transparent, readers should know I have some personal knowledge of this case as well. I did a de novo review for Starks’ appellate attorneys in 2006 regarding the bitemark evidence used by the prosecution’s experts in the 1986 conviction. Let’s just say I didn’t agree with them. Other evidence, plus additional reviews later independently done by other dentists familiar with bitemark “science” led to Starks’ being released from prison.
The myth of bitemark pattern evidence as being reliably reproducible forensic “science.”
Disagreement between forensic dentists on the reliability, validity and forensic testimony in courtroom conclusions has been symptomatic of this forensic method since its inception in US courts in 1954. I’ve written extensively, published papers peer reviewed forensic journals, (AAFS and IOFOS and FSI) and presented public papers on this aspect. More recently, the prosecution’s dentists now being sued by Bennie Starks sued one of Stark’s defense experts for presenting an opposing opinion during an AAFS presentation. Such is the world of forensic bitemark analysts. Personal attacks still continue to be the go-to strategy against those who attempt to raise public safety concerns in public, professional venues and in criminal court cases. Starks’ lawsuit is shining a bright light by the opposition to avoid compensation for wrongful convictions. Strange accusations such as seen in Illinois, targeting forensic reform, are occurring elsewhere. Singularly, the one forum that might influence this bad behavior and push it to a more academic or collegial level is the above mentioned AAFS. That hasn’t happened. I have concluded that if you are a criminal defense expert, then the AAFS doesn’t give a damn.
In essence, the public debate and legal chaos regarding forensic reform and wrongful convictions continues to be very real.