The latest bitemark exoneration in VA raises the issue of what to do with other bitemark convictions

This editorial article speaks volumes about the the damage done to one man ( in his own words) and expands public concern about other criminal defendants in our Criminal Justice system during the 50 years of “judicially accepted” bitemark opinions aiding convictions.

This VA Harward case is the 25 exon victory litigated by the NY Innocence Project and local defense counsels which overcame prosecution experts certified by the American Board of Forensic Odontology.

The ABFO’s current president, Dr. Adam Freeman, has publicly stated that his org has “a responsibility” to review all its members’ casework.

From my experience as a past member of this group (1989 – 2011), the number of bitemark cases that needing review exceed one thousand.

So, ABFO, what is your next step? I know that some members have warned the membership that any efforts at critiquing their casework will bring consequences.

Here is what the Innocence Blog has to say about the Harward case.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star ran an editorial Friday urging Virginia courts to show more skepticism with regard to bite mark evidence in criminal cases.

Using the recent exoneration of Innocence Project client Keith Harward as an example, the editorial board cautioned courts in the state to consider the proven unreliability of bite marks as evidence.

Harward was released and exonerated last week after spending 33 years in prison for a rape and murder, which DNA evidence proves he did not commit. Harward was convicted primarily on the testimony of two forensic dentists who said that Harward’s teeth matched marks left on the rape victim.

“If the courts were to show more skepticism about bite-mark evidence, they would find allies in the very organization that accredits and certifies forensic odontologists,” writes the editorial board. Recent exonerations such as Harward’s have led the American Board of Forensic Odontology to issue new guidelines regarding expert testimony on bite mark evidence.

“The courts should show at least as much concern about the evidence as the board that accredits the experts,” the editorial board wrote.

 

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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