Wrongful Convictions Validity of Bite Mark Evidence

Various types of pattern evidence are under increased scrutiny in the forensic science community. Bite mark evidence is something that with the increased experience of examiners has been shown to be less reliable evidence than previously thought. Is the evidence less reliable, are examiners more aware of the level of certainty they state in their testimony, or has evidence like DNA that comes with statistics rather than subjective examinations impacted the degree of certainty of bite mark analysis?

William Richards spent 19 years in prison for the murder of his wife based on bite mark evidence. After three mistrials, he was convicted during the fourth, leading one to believe that the previous jurors had a difficult time convicting him based on the evidence presented. In 2007, Dr. Norman Sperber stated that ethical consideration led to his change of analysis from that originally testified to in 1997. Dr. Sperber stated photographs and added experience would lessen his degree of certainty that there was some consistency in the evidence photo and with the suspect’s canine teeth.

Keith Allen Harward spent 33 years in prison for rape and murder because of bite mark evidence. Had the evidence and methods available today been available at the time of his conviction, he would have been deemed as innocent at that time.

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