Anti-PCAST District Attorney Says Bitemark Analysis Opponents Are “Flawed”

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This National DA Assoc president works in San Bernardino County, among other things a place where bitemarks helped put an innocent Bill Richards in prison for 23 years.

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Ramos (campaigning for California’s Attorney General post and pro death penalty) has a sterling opinion about bitemark “matching.” Here is his and his org’s “final” 7 page response to the President’s Science Council’s Report. The part about teeth is excerpted below in italics.

As a colleague of mine puts it (in bold):

The NDAA letter to PCAST grossly overstates the success of testimony against University of Buffalo bitemark studies. Never were the studies “thoroughly discredited in court.” Almost similar to saying the possibility of someone else having the same dentition as “one in a million”. The rest of  the commentary is also interesting, including the use of specialized computer programs ( Adobe Photoshop? ) to perform analysis.

Forensic Odontology

Forensic dentists are highly-trained medical professionals and their methods employ well documented and well-understood medical and forensic techniques. Forensic dentists undergo standard medical dental training during which they take the same courses as medical students in pharmacology, physiology, histology, and anatomy of the oral and facial structure.  By virtue of their experience reading x-rays and performing surgeries, forensic dentists are experts in comparing dentitions, pattern, and are well-versed in the injury and healing properties of human skin. Forensic dentists perform bite mark evidence collection through the use of highly specialized photography and harvest injured skin from deceased victims. They analyze bite marks using very specific criteria and highly specialized computer programs and tools. Best practices for comparisons include blinded suspect sample collection and a “lineup” of potential suspects. Board certified forensic odontologists undergo a rigorous training and examination process by the American Board of Forensic Odontology. Studies cited by the PCAST Report in support of its rejection of forensic odontology have been thoroughly discredited in court. For example, both the cadaver studies and 2-D and 3-D studies by Mary and Peter Bush were poorly designed and executed and as a result, did not reliably demonstrate anything. The AAFS study was similarly flawed. The authors admit that the small number of participants and mid-study rule changes, among other problems, meant the study proved only the obvious fact that the best possible evidence should be used when conducting bite mark analysis and comparison. Forensic odontology is an important tool, for both prosecution and defense, especially in child abuse cases. These cases commonly involve a limited number of people who have access to the child and comparisons between this “closed population” of suspects can often reliably exclude all but one suspect who may be included as a possible perpetrator based on specific similarities between the suspect’s dentition and the bite mark injury. Judges, juries, potential defendants and victims all need this valuable tool in the pursuit of justice. PCAST’s study of historic cases in which convictions were vacated do not address vast improvements in forensic odontology and are not relevant to forensic practices today.

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About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in criminal justice reform, CSI, death penalty, Ray Krone bitemark case, William Richards Exoneration Case, Wrongful Conviction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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