| AUSTIN, Texas
AUSTIN, Texas An influential Texas scientific
panel recommended on Thursday that bite-mark analysis not be
admissible as evidence in courts, a decision experts said could
lead judicial systems in other states to exclude it too.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission panel recommended a
moratorium on bite-mark evidence until there is science to
support its admissibility. The decision will go to the full body
as early as Friday, where it will likely be approved.
Bite-mark evidence has been used in U.S. courts for decades,
most often to identify suspects in murders, sexual assaults and
child abuse through marks on the flesh of victims.
But techniques to determine the source of marks are
unreliable, and human flesh is not a good source to record the
marks, studies presented to the panel showed. In some studies,
experts were often divided on whether they were seeing human
bite marks, let alone matching them to a specific individual.
"This commission's findings are incredibly significant
because no other agency or scientific body has ever opined on
the admissibility of bite mark analysis," said Chris Fabricant,
director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project,
which sought the review.
"It has been admissible as evidence for more than 50 years
and thousands have been convicted as a result," he said.
Texas has one of the best-funded forensic science
commissions in the United States, and its findings are often
cited in criminal cases nationwide.
The panel recommended bite-mark analysis be put on hold
until there are scientific standards to determine what is a bite
mark and proficiency testing of individuals who analyze them.
It also recommended a review of cases where convictions were
largely based on bite mark evidence. There was no indication on
how many cases that might be.
While bite marks analysis is used less frequently in U.S.
courts now due to DNA testing, it is still used in other
"Today is the beginning of the end for the use of bite-mark
analysis in courts all over the country," said Peter Bush, a
forensic dentistry expert at the University of Buffalo.
But Dr. David Senn, a bite-mark analysis proponent at the
Dental School of the University of Texas Health Science Center
in San Antonio, said the panel's recommendation was off the
"Bite-mark evidence is too important in the investigation of
certain situations and in the courtroom to be set aside," he