Another thing: One of the main reasons bite mark evidence is considered "scientifically unreliable" is because there's "no proof that bite marks are unique." But the thing is, the teeth don't have to be unique to a single person. If they match a suspect, and don't match 5 other suspects, that's evidence that the one suspect did it. Sure, maybe there are 100 other people in the country that have the same bite marks...but they aren't suspects, so who cares?
This is actually one of the big controversies. One side says that if we have a pool of 5 suspects, and some forensic science points to only one of them, that we can convict off of that.
The other side says that forensic science can be used to narrow down the suspect list for law enforcement, but afterwards they still need sufficient evidence of other sorts in order to convict. I would be in the second group. The status quo has often been in the first.
Though there's limited data to draw from, the best studies I've seen (meaning the most unbiased methodology) estimate the capital crime for rape/murder conviction rate is wrong in the ballpark of about 3% of the time. That's based on the rate of wrongful convictions in a tiny minority of cases, cases that 1) were made before we had DNA evidence, and 2) where there was a clear verdict that DNA evidence was able to deliver on the case after the conviction. I say ballpark of 3% because that sample size is so small. Although fortunately we may have stopped as many wrongful convictions in this small subset of cases, absent systematic changes you can only guess that we have a ballpark estimate of 3% for wrongful convictions in other cases today. Actually the general rate may be even higher since that data comes from capital rape/murder cases - where the burden of proof and presumption of innocence is higher than anywhere else.
(Some conservative sources will put the wrongful conviction rate at tiny fractions of a percent - that research is based on the exoneration rate. Apparently some people think it wise to assume that we always catch and exonerate 100% of wrongful convictions).
If I recall aright, faulty forensic science (bite mark evidence, hair follicle analysis, arson investigators, mistaken DNA analysis, etc.) plays a role in something like maybe 10-30 percent of false convictions? Something like that. Meaning we can get a fuzzy number that perhaps 1 out of two or three hundred convictions were false and could have been avoided if forensic science couldn't convict.
I think one of the best responses to this case would be significance - bite mark evidence is a very small subset of forensic science. I would advise anyone running it to broaden their case to forensic science in general. And to clarify that they are barring it as sufficient evidence for a conviction, not as a useful tool to help law enforcement know which suspects to investigate.
If anyone wanted to go further in depth on research, here are three articles I snagged from my files that could help get you started. From there following citations and google scholar searches using some similar technology will bring you to a boatload of information on false convictions and forensic evidence.
Also look up DoJ investigations into Houston area forensic labs. Also I don't remember the name but there was one lab person sometime somewhere whose analysis was faulty, often committed perjury, and was involved in I think? well over 20 innocent convictions. Forensic science is so unquestioned by courts that he didn't get caught for years, and then he was only fired. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1083735http://www.virginialawreview.org/sites/virginialawreview.org/files/1-2.pdfhttp://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7269&context=jclc
Region IV AlumnusCog Debate
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