ScienceDaily (Sep. 17, 2009) — Against the backdrop of last week's Congressional hearing into the future of forensic science, researchers from the University at Buffalo's Laboratory for Forensic Odontology Research in the School of Dental Medicine, have published a landmark paper on the controversial topic of bitemark analysis.
The Congressional hearing focused on the findings of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the scientific basis of forensic disciplines. Among the pattern evidence fields (fingerprints, tool marks, etc.) that were reviewed in the NAS report, bitemark analysis received critical commentary. During the hearing, Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld introduced Roy Brown, wrongfully convicted on bitemark evidence and later exonerated through DNA analysis.
In anticipation of the NAS report, the new UB study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences challenges the commonly held belief that every bitemark can be perpetrator identified.
"Bitemark identification is not as reliable as DNA identification," explains the study's lead author Raymond G. Miller, D.D.S., UB clinical associate professor of oral diagnostic sciences.
"With DNA, the probability of an individual not matching another can be calculated," he says. "In bitemark analysis, there have been few studies that looked at how many people's teeth could have made the bite."