A long running case with flawed bitemark evidence at its heart has reached a new hurdle. While the judge agreed that the BM evidence was poor, could not be used to link to a suspect and is this case was given inappropriate weight, she felt that, even with the bitemark excluded the outcome would still have been the same.
Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove has denied a request by attorneys for death row inmate Danny Lee Hill to receive a new trial based on bite-mark evidence used at his 1986 trial.
Judge Cosgrove, however, agrees with Hill’s attorneys that the practice of using bite marks to identify the person who made the mark has been found unreliable. In fact, the scientific community has continued to downgrade the value of such evidence even since Hill’s attorneys requested the new trial in 2014.
But the law requires anyone seeking a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, as Hill’s attorneys did, to prove that there is a “strong probability that it will change the result if a new trial is granted,” the ruling says.
The bite-mark evidence was a factor in proving whether Hill’s mouth came in contact with his victim’s privates, but it had no bearing on the kidnapping specification, the judge said.
“Most importantly, the bite-mark evidence does nothing to [spoil] the sufficiency of the overwhelming evidence against [Hill] on the kidnapping specification to the aggravated murder count,” the ruling says.
“According to evidence at trial … Hill refused to help [Raymond] as [Raymond] repeatedly attempted to run or crawl away from the attack,” the ruling says. Hill “watched over Fife in the secluded, wooded area while Combs got the lighter or charcoal fluid,” the ruling said.
She added that “by Hill’s own admissions, he did nothing to help the boy escape, did not seek medical attention for Fife, even when he was alone with him, and never attempted to intervene in the protracted torture of the victim.”
“Even if the court were to conclude based on today’s advances in forensic odontology … that the bite-mark evidence is unreliable … there is no evidence, much less a strong probability, that a new trial would result in a different outcome,” she wrote.