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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.

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