In pivotal test case, judge approves bite mark evidence
By Amanda Lee Myers and David B. Caruso ,APNEW YORK -- Bite mark evidence that may connect a murder suspect to his alleged victim will be allowed at his trial, a judge decided Thursday, disappointing those who hoped the case would help get the forensic technique banished from the nation's courtrooms.
September 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley's decision follows lengthy testimony last year that went to the heart of the reliability of bite mark analysis, which involves comparing bite marks left on the flesh of victims with the teeth of suspects.
At least 24 men convicted or charged with murder or rape based on bite marks found on victims have been exonerated in the U.S. since 2000, according to a June report by The Associated Press based on decades of court records, archives, news reports and filings by the Innocence Project, which helps wrongfully convicted inmates win freedom through DNA testing.
Many of those who were exonerated spent more than a decade in prison, including time on death row.
The AP analysis is the most comprehensive count to date of those exonerated after being convicted or charged based partially or entirely on bite mark evidence.
In Thursday's case, Wiley said he would explain the reasoning behind his ruling in a written decision, but he did not say when that would be.
He did say that his basic finding was that “the field of bite mark analysis comports with the standards of evidence under New York law.” He added: “It's obviously a field that has not been looked at closely by the courts in a long time.”
Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project, was at Thursday's hearing and said Wiley's decision was “contrary to the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community.”
“It's a victory for the Flat Earth Society,” he said.
The Innocence Project and other defense attorneys slam bite mark analysis as sham science and argue that it should no longer be allowed in courtrooms.
Many forensic dentists defend the practice as useful, especially when trying to eliminate suspects, and say it has helped convict murderers and rapists, most famously serial killer Ted Bundy.