PAPER: "Forensic Bitemark Identification: weak foundations, exaggerated claims," by Barbara E. Bierer, C. Michael Bowers, Mary A. Bush, Peter J. Bush, Arturo Casadevall, Simon A. Cole, M. Bonner Denton, Shari Seidman Diamond, Rachel Dioso-Villa, Jules Epstein, David Faigman, Lisa Faigman, Stephen E. Fienberg, Brandon L. Garrett, Paul C. Giannelli, Henry T. Greely, Edward Imwinkelried, Allan Jamieson, Karen Kafadar, Jerome P. Kassirer, Jonathan ‘Jay’ Koehler, David Korn, Jennifer Mnookin, Alan B. Morrison, Erin Murphy, Nizam Peerwani, Joseph L. Peterson, D. Michael Risinger, George F. Sensabaugh, Clifford Spiegelman, Hal Stern, William C. Thompson, James L. Wayman, Sandy Zabell, Ross E. Zumwalt, published by J Law Biosci (2016) lsw045, on November 16, 2016. (Thanks to Dr. Michael Bowers -forensic blogger extraordinaire and one of the esteemed authors of this important paper - for drawing it to our attention, through his Blog 'Forensics in Focus' - CSIDDS. HL);
ABSTRACT: "Several forensic sciences, especially of the pattern-matching kind, are increasingly seen to lack the scientific foundation needed to justify continuing admission as trial evidence. Indeed, several have been abolished in the recent past. A likely next candidate for elimination is bitemark identification. A number of DNA exonerations have occurred in recent years for individuals convicted based on erroneous bitemark identifications. Intense scientific and legal scrutiny has resulted. An important National Academies review found little scientific support for the field. The Texas Forensic Science Commission recently recommended a moratorium on the admission of bitemark expert testimony. The California Supreme Court has a case before it that could start a national dismantling of forensic odontology. This article describes the (legal) basis for the rise of bitemark identification and the (scientific) basis for its impending fall. The article explains the general logic of forensic identification, the claims of bitemark identification, and reviews relevant empirical research on bitemark identification—highlighting both the lack of research and the lack of support provided by what research does exist. The rise and possible fall of bitemark identification evidence has broader implications—highlighting the weak scientific culture of forensic science and the law's difficulty in evaluating and responding to unreliable and unscientific evidence."
The entire paper can be found at:
RELATED STORY: "Experts argue it's time to stop using bite marks in forensics," published by EurekAlert! Science News, Oxford University Press USA."
GIST: "Researchers are increasingly skeptical about the validity of bite-mark identification as trial evidence. A new paper in Journal of Law and the Biosciences describes the legal basis for the rise of bite-mark identification and reviews relevant empirical research on bite-mark identification--highlighting both the lack of research and the lack of support provided by what research does exist.
Forensic dentists claim that they can accurately associate a bite mark to the one and only set of teeth in the world that could have produced the crime scene bite mark. There is, however, no sound basis for believing that forensic dentists can do such a thing. Before 1974, forensic dentists confined themselves to trying to identify victims of disasters, usually by comparing the victims' dentition against their dental records, which often included full-mouth X-rays. A 1975 California case marked the first time bite marks were used to try to identify a perpetrator. The circumstances of the injury, however, presented an unusually stable bite mark of a very unusual set of teeth. 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. Error rates by forensic dentists are perhaps the highest of any forensic identification specialty still practiced.........The American Board of Forensic Odontology conducted a reliability study of the judgments of experienced, board-certified forensic dentists making decisions about bite marks. Researchers selected 100 photographs of suspected bite-mark injuries from actual cases. These were examined by 38 forensic odontologists, who were asked to review the injuries and respond to three questions: is there sufficient evidence in the materials to determine whether the injury is a human bite mark? Is it a human bite mark, not a human bite mark, or suggestive of a human bite mark? Does the bite mark have distinct, identifiable arches and individual tooth marks? For only 14 of the 100 cases did at least 80 per cent of the examiners give the same answers to all three questions.
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." "Evidence-based evaluation of forensic techniques has only recently been recognized as essential to establishing scientific claims - about a century later than it should have, said lead author Michael Saks, a psychology and law professor at Arizona State University. "And bite mark identification has become a central focus of concern."
The entire related story story can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/