We have talked about the Brewer and Brooks case on many occasions – and a new book, written all about the two cases has just been published.
Written by lawyer Tucker Carrington and Journalist Radley Balko the book explores the actions of Stephen Hayne and Mike West – the prosecutor and forensic dentist involved in this, and countless other cases. A review in Slate by Tim Requarth describes it as “an outrageous tale of scientific fraud. Its commentary on the court system is even more chilling.”
There is no doubt that the story is compelling – but deeply worrying and speaks to a larger ill within the US judicial system. While many ABFO members have stated that bitemarks are good science, and that West was an outlier, an oddity, the book describes how the legal framework of prosecutorial and judicial failure to correct forensic science means that the departure of West from the forensic scene does little to provide assurance that this disaster could not happen again.
The case clearly outlines the stark truth that wrongful convictions not only hurt those accused, and the victims, but also can cause harm to others as the real perpetrators are free to offend again – as in this case, with terrible consequences. The protagonists therefore leave behind in their wake not only destroyed lives in jail – but innocent victims whose deaths could have been avoided by appropriate investigation, science and law.
These realities are often ignored by advocates for bitemarks, who concentrate on the “good” that the science can do – “we can save children’s lives”. In this case bitemarks were at least partly responsible for a little girls death. Those who stand up for such science, and argue its suitability in court, would do well to think about Christine Jackson.