Texas Commission – Not enough science to support bitemarks

“It’s too subjective. There is no criteria. As a result, I’m ready to face the absence of it in court, rather than have it be used,” Richard Alpert, Commission member

So, after hours of testimony, hundreds of pages of anecdote and opinion, and, sadly, nowhere near enough science the Texas Forensic Commission has decided to recommend to its Board that bitemark evidence be banned from Texas Criminal Courts.  This is despite a last minute attempt by David Senn who has now appeared no less than three times in front of the Commission.  However, despite his slick presentations he simply wasn’t able to bridge the gulf between his views and where the science led.

From the start the commission stated that it would be led by the science. No easy task – the science is scant and the results contradictory, although there is no doubt that the recent, higher quality research tends to support the view that the biological variances in bitemarks are simply too great to measure, control and account for in forensic science.

The door has not been shut completely though – the commission has stated that there is a way forward – if the ABFO and others can generate high quality research then they will revisit – but, in the interests of justice – they simply cannot allow it in Court.

Under much criticism for their slow pace, lack of science and poor, or absent proficiency testing, the ABFO leave the process bruised and must reflect on their role in developing the discipline – perhaps along other lines, to ensure that odontology remains valid.

While this is a Texas Commission, there is simply no doubt that the rest of the States, even the world, will look to this decision by this highly respected group.  Peter Bush, who presented at the committee on a previous occasion said:

“The Texas position would potentially create a domino effect”

I have no doubt that this will be the case.

The TSFC meets tomorrow to approve the recommendation.


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