Bitemark evidence may play a prominent role in prosecuting a violent crime. Supposedly, experts can match the bitemarks on a victim to a defendant’s teeth. Convictions based on bitemark evidence are possible in an Iowa criminal court. What worries many justice advocates is that bitemark evidence could be unreliable and dubious evidence might result in a wrongful conviction.
Bitemark evidence problems
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a report in 2009 that cast doubts on bitemark evidence’s reliability. The report noted significant problems with bitemark analyses. Namely, a human’s anterior dental patterns are not individually unique, and the patterns might not replicate accurately on human skin. Also, an accurate analysis to prove or disprove who a bitemark belongs could be ambiguous.
The NIST’s report is not the first to cast doubts on the accuracy and reliability of bitemark evidence. In fact, it is the fourth one produced by a scientific body that doubts the scientific validity of bitemark evidence.
Criminal justice history shows that roughly two dozen people convicted of bitemark evidence were later exonerated. In some cases, DNA evidence proved their innocence. However, someone charged with a serious felony might deal with bitemark evidence at trial.
Addressing bitemark evidence
A criminal defense in Iowa courtrooms could challenge bitemark evidence. The defense may point to the unreliability, and lack of definitive accuracy with any bitemarks entered into evidence. An expert witness might testify about the bitemark’s inconclusiveness.
Guilt in criminal trials requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Weak bitemark evidence may cast such doubts. If the prosecution has little else to offer but faulty evidence, a case might fall apart.