© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Source: Texas Could Become First State To Ban Bite-Mark Evidence From Court

teeth-xray.jpg
Justin Mclean | http://bit.ly/1LvqY8d
/

The Forensic Science Commission of Texas recommended last Friday that prosecutors across the state stop using bite-mark analysis as evidence. The commission lacks the authority to ban it, but their vote to ban will empower defense attorneys, and Texas may see action in the next legislative session. Last month "The Source" hosted a veteran Forensic Odontologist and professor David Senn who argued the technique, while limited still has value.

"[Judges] say any evidence that will be helpful to the jury or the judge to make a decision about an issue at question is helpful evidence, and I think bite-mark evidence is helpful evidence in that case," said Senn.

One of the stronger arguments against the use of bite-mark analysis comes from a recent study that showed there was strong disagreement from bite-mark analyzing practitioners over what was and what was not a human bite mark.

"To associate some particular defendant with some particular bite mark is subjective speculation masquerading as science, and it's led directly to the wrongful convictions and indictments of 24 people," said Chris Fabricant, with the Innocence project responding to that study.

Late last year in Texas, Stephen Mark Chaney's murder conviction was overturned after he had served more than 25 years. He had been convicted largely on the testimony of a forensic odontologist who said the likelihood that a bite-mark left in the slaying of John and Sally Sweek was a one-in-a-million match to Chaney. Long after, the statement was later discredited as having no scientific basis.

Guest:

  • Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive