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Bite mark evidence challenged in Paul Alan Ross case

Original story in full at the Altoona Mirrorhere.

Defense attorneys for Paul Aaron Ross say there is no valid science linking a bite mark to a specific person, so when Ross’ murder case comes up for a retrial in Blair County court, that evidence should be excluded.

At a minimum, there should be a Frye hearing where scientists, forensic dentists and other experts can be brought to testify against its admission, attorney Dana M. Delger said Friday.

Delger, an attorney with the Innocence Project Inc. of New York City, a national litigation firm with a history of challenging bite mark evidence in criminal cases, is working with Altoona attorneys Thomas M. Dickey and Thomas Hooper on behalf of the Hollidaysburg-area man facing a second trial.

Ross’ 2005 conviction in the murder of 26-year-old Tina S. Miller of Hollidaysburg was overturned on appeal, with the state Superior Court in October 2012 ordering a new trial.

In court documents filed earlier this year, Dickey asked Judge Jolene G. Kopriva to exclude bite mark evidence from the retrial, which led to Friday’s court hearing before her.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has become the latest organization to identify bite mark evidence as profoundly unreliable, joining the National Academy of Sciences, the Texas Forensic Science Commission and other academic researchers and scientists, Delger said.

The Texas commission’s April 2016 report recommends that bite mark comparison evidence not be admitted in criminal cases in Texas until development of additional criteria.

The research finding fault with bite mark evidence, Delger said, has been done by those interested in the validity of the science and not the outcome of a specific court case.

“Now that we know there are problems, the question is … What do we do in the future?” she said. “We can’t pretend (bite mark evidence) is still reliable.”

Dr. Dennis Asen, an Allentown orthodontist, told the jury that  Ross’ dental impression was “very highly consistent” with that mark.

Asen also told the jury that based on his examination of the bite mark, it could not have been made by any one of the four additional people Miller was with on the night she died.


About Odont1

Odont1 is a seasoned forensic dentist, researcher and educator with an interest in progressing the science of the discipline while retaining those elements that are evidence based and useful to the judicial system at any level.

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