*See note at bottom.
To be expected, although in an ironic twist to the above image, the AAFS affiliated bite mark bunch continues to press on with their agenda. This is in the face of a tsunami of criticism from media reports of wrongful convictions, courts themselves, forensic and legal experts, forensic commissions and governmental reviewers such as the National Academy of Sciences (See: “Strengthening Forensic Sciences in the United States….” (ppg 173-176), the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Texas Forensic Science Commission (See: “Arguments over bite marks get testy…….”).
They are continuing their long tradition of promoting bite mark advocates with awards at the next annual AAFS convention. In 2017 its coming to New Orleans.
A very recent missive from the AAFS News alert always provides announcements of the org’s various multi-disciplinary forensic sections. The Odontology Section in this issue is glowing with praise for a couple of senior AAFS/ABFO forensic dentists who have lived on and through from the glory days of bite marks as a “novel” and compelling impression-matching discipline. That’s just about 41 years since the 1975 MARX decision in California helped to raise them to admissibility acceptance around the United States. What’s still current in all state’s law books are other bite mark cases which helped convict defendants and convinced other jurisdictions to follow their lead. The “Domino effect” for courtroom acceptance.
Here is a strong sign of legal prevarication and systemic inertia. Some of these convictions were dismissed and the defendants exonerated via post-conviction DNA testing and recent junk science legislation. No official change or update has happened.
So, back to the Odontology award section. The awardees have either recently testified in courts (see the Dean case from NYC) or before forensic commissions as proponents in favor of bitemark identifications in its various subjectively “approved by the ABFO” forms.
In addition, a decades long “Tom Krauss Bitemark Breakfast” has been held by the dentists. It has hosted some remarkable people generally outside the small group of dentists, but under an onslaught of narrow thinking, now has devolved to something different. The late Dr. Krauss was the co-developer of the innovative, much used and now much copied “ABFO No.2 Scale.” CSIs love it.
He was an honorable man and led more that one review group of bitemark convictions all the way back to the 1970’s. One in particular was Milone. He even was actively investigating MS bite mark guru to himself Michael West (See: “Radley Balko on the Fabricated Bite Mark Evidence of Michael West”).
As a denouement to past greatness, here is one of the breakfast’s more recent notable speakers. Melissa Mourges is a senior deputy District Attorney for Manhattan. She fought for bitemarks in a particularly offensive way less than 3 years ago, but later lost due to her own office overruling its use. Possibly the removal was called by public complaints to her boss and the NY Bar Association. See “In an angry, defensive memo, Manhattan DA’s office withdraws bite mark evidence.”
Here’s the latest from AAFS Odontology: It is from the current ABFO president who is also the Sec’try of the AAFS section.
“Please remember that this will be the first year the Odontology Section will not host the Thomas Krauss Memorial Bitemark Breakfast; instead, the bitemark portion of the scientific session will be named in his honor. You have the ability to be part of this history by attending its inaugural. I am very proud to announce that the Awards Committee for the Odontology Section met, discussed, debated, and have settled on two well-deserving recipients.Frank D. Wright has been chosen to receive the Reidar F. Sognnaes Award of Excellence in Forensic Odontology. This award recognizes the achievement of an individual in the field of forensic odontology. The recipient must be a member of the Odontology Section and must have made a significant contribution to the field of forensic odontology. The award specifically relates to excellence in forensic odontology, not to what the individual does outside of the field of forensic odontology. Thomas J. David has been chosen to receive the Lester Luntz Odontology Award. This award is based on excellence as it relates to forensic odontology, along with involvement in and contributions to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Odontology Section. Please join me in congratulating both of these well-deserving individuals. We as an organization are better off due to their hard work over the past four decades.”
At this point, I have no idea what new or aspiring dentists who are interested in pursuing forensic training have been told about any of this. Its apparent that the ABFO is continuing its training programs co-incident with the AAFS meeting in New Orleans. **
“The American Board of Forensic Odontology will be hosting two workshops this year, the Expert Witness Workshop and the Age Estimation Workshop, both of which will be held on Sunday, February 12. While there are no longer any participation spots available, there are a small number of observer spots available. “
There is no AAFS oversight into what these professed educators will provide as to the content of their “Expert Witness Workshop.” The alternative course content the following year will assuredly be all about Bitemark Analysis.
Possibly the upcoming Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board’s review of the ABFO’s pending five-year “recert” will provide some redirection to their public an courtroom activities.
Sidebar: One ABFO member has responded so far.
“I don’t think I will be attending the awards ceremony.
- * AAFS 2017 Convention banner retracted 9/13/2016
- ** AAFS 2017 Convention website link added 9/13/16