Two divergent thoughts are on the forefront of forensic science. One, the standard approach to bitemark analysis in the classic practice of Forensic Odontology, to date. And two, the evidence of its frank limitation in putative value within the Criminal Justice System.
The crux of the problem is a difference in perception between some forensic dentists who feel justified in making comparisons between a given sample of known bitemark evidence to an unknown pattern of injury made in flesh and their subsequent bold testimony citing similarities as current case law demonstrates, and those members of the legal profession whose clientele have been wrongfully convicted. I would venture this difference in opinion to be grounded in the age old problem of statistics.
Scientific scrutiny in a closed sample size is not justified as borne out by the number of those exonerated through later DNA analysis of said same evidence (i.e. unknown patterned injury in flesh). Listen up, you who continue to play in the arena, I know you have heard this before.
If you are the one out of a number of people thought to be implicated in causing another’s death, and you are proved not to be the one who caused death, then the “dental science” that supported that original opinion is 100% wrong. The error rate therefore, in all 27 cases of wrongful conviction is 100%.
Here’s another way to look at this. I have red hair. Only one half of one percent of the entire world population has red hair. If a red hair is found on the floor boards of my car, it is likely my hair. If a red hair is found in the car of a murder victim, and I knew the victim peripherally, in order to link me to that evidence, you must rule out every single other redhead with whom the victim came into contact. The question starts with what period of time.
The victim may have been a student of mine over ten years ago, but in whose text book reopened, a red hair fell out. There may have been another student in that class who had red hair. The UPS man may have red hair, any fellow customer in one of several grocery stores may have red hair. The “sample” size grows of persons to rule out, before your claim that I committed the crime is even in the ball park.
Yet, the hair analyst claims upon scientific scrutiny to identify me as the likely perpetrator. And the jury concurs. I am imprisoned. Years later the DNA analysis proves otherwise, that the hair is not mine.
I have no other recourse but to sue the living day lights out of all involved. My loss incalculable. The others assailed by the true murderer, are without redemption.