A Classic Forensic Failure: Bitemarkers Issue An “Editorial” Explaining Their Rebirth as “Science-Based”


Nothing explains the mind-set of the AAFS affiliated ABFO bitemark group better than this 11 page Apologia that attempts to rehab their continued use in US Criminal Courts. It has a host of mis-truths, avoidance methods, and non-science orientation. Some bullet points on these revelations. The title is incredible: Epidermis and Enamel
Insights Into Gnawing Criticisms of Human Bitemark Evidence

  • It is likely this micro-treatise was used by the ABFO to renew it’s “board” certification by the AAFS spin-off, the FSAB. Some of the ABFO contributors are ex-AAFS Presidents.
  • Years of court approval continues to be their substitute for empirical science proofs of what they do.
  • A major theme: The Innocence Project is the devil.

The following is from active AAFS and ABFO member Dr. Cynthia Brzozowski and is quite illuminating regarding some errors, inconsistencies, omissions, and bunk seen in “Epidermis and Enamel.”

  • Quote from Epidermis and Enamel:                                                                                     “Understanding the causes and attempting to clarify where, how, and why the wrongful convictions occurred is necessary to be able to take measures to reduce the likelihood of such failures from happening again.”
  • Response 

The ABFO “as a group” has never addressed the wrongful convictions and the flaws of the analysts opinions in each case. They have only recognized Dr West’s cases ( see “The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist”).

Their list of wrongful bitemark-aided convicts is incorrect.   

The 19 wrongful convictions cited in their editorial involved over a dozen mainstream members are mis-numbered. Other exonerations were ignored.  

  • Quote from Epidermis and Enamel:
    “Means for improving reliability of bitemark analysis methods and formulating opinions are being assessed.17,18 When methods or techniques that increase reliability are found and validated, they are incorporated as appropriate. The American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) has taken the lead role in this. The ABFO leaders are committed to ongoing discussion to promote appro- priate evolution of the field. Included in this transition is the de velopment of bitemark proficiency examinations for individual odontologists after board certification, producing new and more robust bitemark guidelines, requiring ongoing recertification of odontologists, and recommending independent verification of conclusions by a qualified colleague
  • Response:
    The 2 citations are from 2011 and 2013 and they did not support means of reliability in bitemark methods. It is obvious that they cannot cite more recent studies. The first citation utilized a software matching dentitions used to imprint a mark on a foam doll (the ABFO criticized the anti-bitemark Bush studies which utilized cadaver skin which would be more akin to real life. They had a 16.6% error rate in matches of dentition to the bitemarks in the foam doll). The 2nd study by Mark Page states in the conclusions that it is disturbing the wide range of expert opinions of the same bm image ( similar to their failed 2015 construct validity results).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The ABFO has not taken the lead in incorporating methods or techniques that increase reliability and are found and validated.If they did they would have incorporated Dr Ian Pretty‘s Severity Scale back in 2009. The ABFO has done no such thing. This is a complete fabrication.

    It took the ABFO 7 years after the 2009 NAS Report to remove “the biter” term or what is known as individualization from their Guidelines.                                                                                                            

  • Quote from Epidermis and Enamel:
“The authors consider that of the 4 TFSC recommendations regarding bitemark evidence, the first 2 have already been ad- dressed by both the current and proposed changes to ABFO Standards and Guidelines, and the fourth has been accomplished by the TFSC’s Bite Mark Case Review Panel described above. The third, which deals with proficiency testing, is more complicated, but it is also under development.” 

Backstory read: In a Landmark Decision Texas Forensic Commission Issues Moratorium on Bitemark Evidence. 

  • Response:
 If this is true then why was the bitemark proficiency exam committee “sunsetted?”  The ABFO / bitemark committee [comment: a highly conflicted ABFO subgroup]  stated in February [2018] they will not be conducting such studies. One cannot have a proficiency exam if they do not conduct successful studies to determine confidence levels for calling a pattern injury a bitemark using the “new” criteria developed.

The Bitemarkers Mantra 3-26-2018

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in forensic science reform protecting the innocence and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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