Texas 1st State to Recommend Court Ban on Bite Mark
"For far too long courts have permitted this incredibly
evidence that is cloaked in science, when in fact there has been no
scientific research to substantiate the practitioners' claims that it
is possible to identify someone from a bite mark," said Chris
Fabricant, an attorney for the New York-based Innocence Project.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas became the first state Friday to call
for banning bite mark analysis in criminal cases, dealing a major
credibility blow to a technique that critics rebuke as junk science and
will now likely encounter greater skepticism in courtrooms across the
Although the Texas Forensic Science Commission doesn't have the power
to enforce an outright ban, its recommendation for a moratorium on bite
mark evidence is expected to weigh heavily on the minds of judges
statewide and beyond. There is no scientific proof that teeth can be
definitively matched to human skin.
At least two dozen men convicted or charged with murder or rape based
on bite marks have been exonerated nationwide since 2000. Critics say
it is long overdue that the practice joins other discredited evidence
such as bullet-lead analysis and microscopic hair analysis.
Lynn Garcia uses a chart
as she takes part in a Texas Forensic Science Commission meeting to
consider recommendations against using bite mark analysis in criminal
cases, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Austin, Texas. The commission moved
forward with the recommendation that bite mark evidence not be used
pending further research. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The commission, a state agency whose members are appointed by state
Republican leaders, didn't shut the door on supporting bite mark
evidence under strict criteria in the future. But commissioners said
the burden is now on a small and mostly ungoverned group of forensic
dentists who defend the technique to come back with better research.
Supporters of bite mark evidence, who argue the practice has helped
convict child killers and serial killer Ted Bundy, told the commission
this week that those studies are in the works.
"This should have been going on for years. Hopefully we'll go along a
lot faster than we should have been," forensic dentist Frank Wright
Putting new scrutiny on bite marks has thrust the obscure Texas
Forensic Science Commission into the national spotlight for the second
time in recent years. In 2009, then-Gov. Rick Perry abruptly removed
three people from the state board just 48 hours before commissioners
were to consider a report that a faulty investigation led to a Texas
A later ruling by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, now the Texas
governor, effectively ended in an inquiry into the evidence that
convicted Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for the arson
deaths of his three children.