Home / ABFO Diplomates / Senn – I am part of the problem

Senn – I am part of the problem

The audio from the TFSC has just been released.  Its over two and half hours, but Dr David Senn presents within the first few minutes and makes a startling admission

I think that I am part of the problem

No doubt that it is true.  Senn, who has appeared three times in front of the committee failed to convince them that bitemark science is suitable for Court.  Confusingly he goes on to describe a “perfect storm” bitemark case – one is which everything is “perfect” for the examination of a bite.  Senn is a fanatic with regards to the correct use of language and yet seems to be in error here? See the definition later in the post, but note that the is bad situation made worse.  So while inappropriate in the case he describes, in might be an appropriate way to describe his efforts at rehabilitating the science of bitemarks.  This is not the first error in his testimony where in the first committee he described the research efforts of certain individuals as “qualitative” when in fact they were “quantitative”.

Senn, in his admission, was referring to his often cited NAS presentation where he clearly outlined the problems with bitemark evidence – but really didn’t address any of the strengths, if indeed there are any.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 15.26.01In complete contrast to Senn’s discourse, where he spends time telling the TFSC what their job is (in a similar way to that of his appearance in front of the PSAC) Dr Frank Wright appeared in this final hearing to add his view.  His careful, honest and candid testimony must surely have impressed the Committee but he was hindered by the lack of progress made by the ABFO since the last meeting.

Wright and other odontologists, including Senn, had agreed to progress with a second study examining the the reliability of the bitemark assessment process.  This action was communicated back to the TFSC who were impressed that profession had chosen to engage with the process.

A number of meetings were held and the study was about to be launched when Senn sent an open letter (extending to 14 pages) to the ABFO stating that he couldn’t support the study, felt it was wrong, and, despite the fact that he mentioned no scientific objections – wanted it to stop.  This letter – containing a number of the usual accusations of ethics, conduct, and alternate agendas (you will note that he brings this up at the beginning of his appearance here as well).

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 15.44.54

This is a slide from the presentation shown to the TFSC – entitled Suspended Efforts – it clearly shows the impact that this letter had on the commission.  It is likely that had this research started then the Commission would have delayed their findings until the research was completed.  It was, as pointed out to Senn at the time of his ill conceived letter, that he would score a pyrrich victory – he won a battle but his actions have very much led to loosing the war to keep any form of bitemarks in Texas.

So we return to Senn’s comments; it turns out that yes, he is part of the problem.


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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