It’s still a touchy subject. Admittedly, there is a “science” to bitemark analysis. There are books written about it, and the Standard of Care Guidelines for Forensic Dental Consultants to follow are self-evident. Preeminent Forensic Odontologists, many of whom I call my peers, in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Society of Forensic Odontology, have delivered testimony on capital cases regarding their professional opinion with respect to bitemark “evidence” which has served remarkably well to “assist the trier of fact”, i.e. the jury, in formulating a guilty verdict.
However years later, subsequent DNA testing of evidence, has resulted in exoneration of many of those individuals who were “wrongfully” convicted, upon retrial. My colleague Mike Bowers, DDS, JD, has written prolifically on the subject in his blog. He reports on the evolution of the Standard of Care in bitemark comparisons, and has an intimate understanding of the minds of his peers in the American Board of Odontology. He can quote chapter and verse on the attributes of erroneous bitemark testimony.
So, I don’t need to go there; read it and weep. Now, those of us who care in the Forensic Sciences community are familiar with the 2009 NAS report citing the need for more definitive research in bitemark analysis. This type of evidence falls within the broader category of “pattern injury” identification. I maintain the “science” of bitemark analysis is too subjective for me to form a professional opinion, either to include or exclude a subject, from being in the pool of potential “biters”. I have come as close as I want to in the realm of exerting power in decision-making on life and death, (I believe it is akin to the power of God), and that was in euthanizing two family dogs.
I base my decision not to do bitemark work as a Forensic Odontologist, primarily for the same reasons that to this day, we do not “grade” bruises. It would be unprofessional for me to do otherwise, unless I was on the cutting edge of research in that “art and science”. I have claimed, there will never be another “Ted Bundy”, meaning in his case the bitemark was, in my humble opinion, the quintessential one. Another blog perhaps…