Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bite-mark evidence in criminal cases; Grits for Breakfast sees "little basis for relying on such testimony to accuse someone" - and points out that validating research supporting forensic dentistry is inhibited by a lack of willing bite-mark victims. (Must Read. HL);

POST: "Bite me: Validating research supporting forensic dentistry inhibited by lack of willing bite-mark victims,"  by Scott Henson,  published on  his superb blog  "Grits for Breakfast" on October 14, 2013.

GIST:  "To me, though, the question posed in the headline - whether forensic dentistry should be "banned" - frames the issue too starkly. The real question is, "under what circumstances is its use appropriate?". Is there a role in the justice system for forensic odontology? Sure. As the article mentions, it has been useful in identifying victims in mass casualties, matching teeth to dental records. And it can play an important role in excluding suspects. But there's little basis for relying on such testimony to accuse someone -  certainly not as the primary evidence against them, as was done in the New York case resulting in a recent DNA exoneration that inspired the article. Unfortunately, as the National Academy of Sciences articulated in a 2009 report, many forensic disciplines aren't really "science" at all and forensic odontology is one of them. Instead, like tool mark or hair-and-fiber analyses, the method of identification involves subjective comparison, not scientific proof. The justice system has so firmly incorporated these non-scientific disciplines into the marrow of its being that it would be unrealistic to argue all comparative disciplines should be abandoned - e.g., it's been shown that cognitive bias can produce errors in fingerprint comparisons but the likelihood that evidence will ever be excluded from court is virtually nil. But some disciplines are more reliable than others and forensic dentistry is definitely one of the shakier, less credible examples."

The entire post can be found at:

See The Verge: Biting controversy; Forensic dentstry battles to prove it's not junk," by Matt Stroud:
Criminal appeals tend to move glacially and unpredictably, so it’s unclear if the court will exonerate Richardson or not. (Prosecutors have less than a month to prove that Richardson wasn’t incarcerated for nothing.) But IP says his case is not unique. The organization has already identified or helped to exonerate innocent people in 17 similar situations, and flagged seven cases in which flawed bite mark evidence was initially used to indict innocent people, but later squelched in court. Based on the number of cases tied to bite mark analysis — and IP’s belief that it has only intervened in a few of the ensuing wrongful convictions — the organization argues that the practice is "junk science" and should be abolished. Chris Fabricant, IP’s director of strategic litigation, says that bite mark evidence is "based on subjective speculation" and that the technique is "responsible for more wrongful convictions than any other forensic discipline that’s still in practice today." Fabricant is just one of many people and organizations questioning the use of bite mark evidence in court. Perhaps the most prominent of these organizations is the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The prestigious, 2,200-member nonprofit voiced similar concerns in a 328-page report four years ago: "The simple reality is that the interpretation of forensic evidence [such as bite mark analysis] is not always based on scientific studies to determine its validity," the report reads. "This is a serious problem." Bolstering this point, the NAS report quoted a 2001 analysis from the peer-reviewed academic journal Science & Justice, concluding that there is a distinct "lack of valid evidence to support many of the assumptions made by forensic dentists during bite mark comparisons.""

Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

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:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

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