Since a group of forensic dentists specializing in bite-mark comparison was formed in Chicago 34 years ago, the technique has become a regular weapon in the forensic arsenal, with odontologists testifying in courtrooms hundreds of times. In a series on forensic science, the Chiago Tribune says that court accept bite-mark testimony even though there is no accurate way to measure the reliability of bite-mark comparisons. The method has gained acceptance without benefit of broadly reviewed research and scientific validation, elements that separate true science from guesswork.
Forensic odontology, says the Tribune,is a case study in how easily forensic science’s false aura of infallibility can distort the adversarial system of American justice. “I think bite marks probably ought to be the poster child for bad forensic science,” said David Faigman, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and co-editor of “Modern Scientific Evidence.” Dr. Michael Bowers, an odontologist and lawyer who served on the examination and credentialing committee of the American Board of Forensic Odontology, has estimated that experts falsely identified an innocent person as the biter nearly two thirds of the time. In one notorious case, such evidence helped send Ray Krone to death row for the 1991 murder of a Phoenix waitress. The ex- postal worker spent more than three years on death row and seven years under a life sentence before DNA testing connected another man to the crime.