It’s just a dental journal (see pg. 68), but this op-ed piece may be the FIRST time organized dentistry has spoken out about the flim-flam of bitemark ‘science.’ The anonymous author is quietly referencing a recent publication from the Journal of Law and the Biosciences titled “Forensic bitemark identification: weak foundations, exaggerated claims.” Use this link to access. The JLB journal is a co-venture between Duke University, Harvard University Law School, and Stanford University, and published by Oxford University Press.
From the Journal of the California Dental Association: (Feb 2017)
It’s Time to Stop Using Bite Marks in Forensics, Experts Argue
Researchers are increasingly skeptical about the validity of bitemark identification as trial evidence, according to a paper published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences. The paper describes the legal basis for the rise of bite-mark identification and reviews relevant empirical research on the subject, highlighting the lack of research and support provided by the research that does exist. Studies of wrongful convictions based on DNA exonerations have found the forensic sciences to be second only to eyewitness errors as a source of false or misleading evidence contributing to erroneous convictions, according to the paper, which also states that error rates by forensic dentists are perhaps the highest of any forensic identification specialty still practiced. One recent evaluation sought to examine all empirical research aimed at determining whether all human dentition is unique. Following an extensive bibliographic search, 13 studies were found and each was reviewed in detail. None were able to support a conclusion of dental uniqueness, according to the paper. Moreover, recent reviews of the field’s claims, as well as recent empirical findings, have underscored the lack of reliability and validity of the most fundamental claims about the ability of forensic dentists to identify the source of bite marks on human skin. A number of DNA exonerations have occurred in recent years for people convicted based on erroneous bite-mark identifications. A committee of the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that bite-mark identification testimony has been “introduced in criminal trials without any meaningful scientific validation, determination of error rates or reliability testing.”
Michael Saks, a psychology and law professor at Arizona State University and lead author of the paper, said evidence-based evaluation of forensic techniques has only recently been recognized as essential to establishing scientific claims. “And bite-mark identification has become a central focus of concern,” he said. To learn more about this debate, visit http://jlb.oxfordjournals.org.