Update: White House Report on Forensics Science: “Eradicate” the Use of Bitemarks

Office of Science and Technology Policy


Update on the Update: More on this today (Wednesday July 22, 2015)  from Radley Balko at THE WATCH

On Tuesday, July 21, the White House OSTP issued an oral presentation by:

Jo Handelsman

Dr. Jo Handelsman is the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June of 2014. Dr. Handelsman helps to advise President Obama on the implications of science for the Nation, ways in which science can inform U.S. policy, and on Federal efforts in support of scientific research.”

Her remarks were presented at the International Symposium on Forensic Science Error Management – Detection, Measurement and Mitigation, Arlington, VA, July 20-24, 2015, organized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In its essence, she recommended the “eradication” of forensic science practices of the kind relied upon by bitemark identification — specifically using bitemark identification as the poster child for unacceptable, unscientific practices.

This is a continuation of TWO Congressional (by Senators Rockefeller and Leahy) studies launched by the US Congress and is independent of the NFSC/NIST/DOJ committee slowly churning its way towards their version of standards, best practices, and such within forensics (this was a NIST/DOJ run public meeting). It has a  bitemark group chaired and predominantly populated by practitioners of bitemark “identification” about whom Dr. Handlesman is  referring in her statements.

Her artful and concise comments started with this statement that a “quite disturbing” example of inadequate forensic science is  “still in operation” within the US criminal Justice system.  Quickly using the NAS 2009 report on “Strengthening Forensic Science in the US,”  she explained that standards and methods of a legitimate science required “highly consistent data” and methods” leading to ” a high degree of certainty in the results” when used to LINK a defendant to a crime scene or sample.

About 30 seconds into her speech, she starts explaining the much maligned mini-group of “bitemark-readers” use of bitemark “identification,” as a framework for what forensic failure means. This echoes the NAS detailed narrative on why bitemark opinions fail  to meet the required threshold of reliable science. In essence they have no data, have variable conclusions among it’s practitioners, and the more experienced have more disagreement than lesser experienced ones (“which goes the wrong way”) in determining whether a skin injury image 1) is a bitemark, 2) is it human or animal and 3) are the images suitable evidence for the courts.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences continues to recognize and “certify” this group through its Forensic Science Accreditation Board. You must realize that the AAFS has some strange affinity in protecting  this bitemark board. It must be  internal politics.

In closing: Here is the avi recording of what Dr. Handlesman said.

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, Bad Forensic Science, Bite Marks, Bitemarks, criminal justice reform, CSI, Forensic Dentistry, junk forensic science and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Update: White House Report on Forensics Science: “Eradicate” the Use of Bitemarks

  1. GB says:

    Reblogged this on Wrongly Convicted Group Website and commented:
    Bitemark identification is unscientific – according to Jo Handelsman at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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