ShareThis Page

Texas panel recommends ban on bite mark analysis in criminal cases

| Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 9:57 p.m.

AUSTIN — Texas on Friday became the first state to call for banning bite mark analysis in criminal cases, dealing a major credibility blow to a technique that critics rebuke as junk science and will now likely encounter greater skepticism in courtrooms across the nation.

Although the Texas Forensic Science Commission doesn't have the power to enforce an outright ban, its recommendation for a moratorium on bite mark evidence is expected to weigh heavily on the minds of judges statewide and beyond. There is no scientific proof that teeth can be definitively matched to human skin.

At least two dozen men convicted or charged with murder or rape based on bite marks have been exonerated nationwide since 2000. Critics say it is long overdue that the practice joins other discredited evidence such as bullet-lead analysis and microscopic hair analysis.

The commission, a state agency whose members are appointed by state Republican leaders, didn't shut the door on supporting bite mark evidence under strict criteria in the future. But commissioners said the burden is now on a small and mostly ungoverned group of forensic dentists who defend the technique to come back with better research.

Supporters of bite mark evidence, who argue the practice has helped convict child killers and serial killer Ted Bundy, told the commission this week that those studies are in the works.

“This should have been going on for years. Hopefully, we'll go along a lot faster than we should have been,” forensic dentist Frank Wright said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me