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Bitemark litigation in action

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 15.43.40Watch this fascinating insight into the process of US court appeals. This is a presentation from the Mississippi Supreme Court in which the case of Eddie Lee Howard is being discussed. It lasts around an hour and you need to move forward to around minute three before the action starts but its a great watch for those who haven’t seen an hearing like this.

The case involves forensic bitemark evidence presented by Dr Mike West, but in particular this case examines the impact of his deposition where he appeared to move away from bitemarks and, in essence stated that the evidence was not sound.

Tucker Carrington
Tucker Carrington

What is interesting in the hearing is the Judges assessment of the case as it presented first by Tucker Carrington (Head of the Mississippi Innocence Project) and then by the States Attorney.  The States Attorney seems lost in his approach and unable to reconcile the fact that his own expert has burnt him in a deposition.  He states at one point that “it would appear that the conviction is to be overturned”.  He calls for West to be invited back to the Court to answer questions, and argues that while West has apparently dismissed bitemarks he stands by his testimony in other cases.  One should remember that these other cases include exonerations such as Kennedy Brewer.

Chris Fabricant, from the New York Innocence Project, steps in at the end with a further assessment of the weakness of bitemark evidence not only in this case, but in all cases.

This is a further example of the whole field of bitemark assessment being contaminated by a faulty practitioner – it remains to be seen if science can prove that there is a place for bitemarks in the judicial system.

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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