The American Board of Forensic Odontology just lost its’ a face-off with the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The TFSC recommended a moratorium ( Texas Panel Calls for an End to Criminal IDs via Bitemarks ) on biting evidence after a seven-month investigation of this AAFS sponsored dental group’s inadequate to non-existent scientific underpinnings. Significantly, a core objection from the Commission was ABFO members’ participation in over 24 exoneration cases exposed by New York’s Innocence Project’s relentless litigation against unreliable forensic methods and its experts. You can see below that this list may be increasing. In fact, the TFSC decision was based on the Texas exoneration of Steve Chaney from a bitemark ID aided conviction 28 years ago. Here’s another bitemark case approaching a final decision.
This latest exoneration litigation has recently gone viral in the news.
As is usual, these exoneration cases always lead with the DNA evidence, obtained after conviction, being argued as the foundation for “actual innocence.”
“Lawyers with the Washington firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, along with the New York-based Innocence Project, filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence on March 4, citing testing performed by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science that failed to find Harward’s DNA on sperm left by the perpetrator.”
And here are the bitemark opinions used against Harward at his conviction trial. (taken from the above Richmond Times-Dispatch link)
“Two forensic odontologists testified his teeth matched those of the bites on the rape victim. One expert testified, “with reasonable scientific certainty,” that Harward’s teeth caused the bite marks, while the other testified it was not possible that someone other than Harward could have bitten the woman.”
“The evidence apparently was persuasive. In dismissing Harward’s appeal in 1988, the Virginia Court of Appeals noted: “both forensic dentists testified that all gross characteristics of spacing, width, and alignment of Harward’s teeth ‘fit on the money’ the photographs of bite marks.”
Well, maybe the “fit” was is just another example of a false positive? The ABFO’s three attempts at reliability (1986, 1999, 2015 ) testing have all been failures due to dental examiner disagreement.