Shoddy Reliability of Forensic Evidence I: Bite-mark forensics

Today’s NY Times (“Lives in Balance, Texas Leads Scrutiny of Bite-Mark forensics”; 12/13/2015) reports on the recent exoneration of a man imprisoned for 28 years, based on shoddy forensic bite-mark evidence.

The ongoing crisis in forensic evidence and expert testimony–reflected in admissions that crime labs (including the FBI) use sloppy methods and unreliable science continues and surely has implications for forensic psychology and psychiatry(see next post).

Curiously, it is the State of Texas that is leading the charge. The Texas Forensic Science Commission is directing inquiries into past forensic testimony, including convictions, despite political efforts to derail their work (in 2009, then Governor Rick Perry unsuccessfully attempted to derail the commission’s proceedings by replacing commissioners).

In response to the rising tide of criticism, including the expanding number of exonerations, and 2009 report of the National Academy of Sciences (“Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States”), a National Commission on Forensic Science was created in 2014 to create guidelines to strengthen the validity and reliability of the forensic sciences.

It will be interesting to see how this commission addresses forensic behavioral science, surely an area that is equally subject to shoddy methods, bias, and error as the purported “hard” forensic sciences.


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