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Is bite mark evidence reliable in court?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Prosecutors in Tennessee sometimes rely on what is known as bite mark evidence when they are making a case against a defendant. However, there are considerable problems with bite mark evidence, and people who were falsely charged with capital crimes using bite mark evidence have later been exonerated by DNA tests and other legitimate evidence. Bite marks are just one example of a practice prosecutors use that is prone to failure.

What is wrong with bite mark evidence?

Bite mark evidence is the process of attempting to match the pattern, size and shape of wounds that look like bite marks on a victim’s body to the teeth and mouth of a potential perpetrator. The goal is to show that the bites match the perpetrator, indicating who committed the crime. The problem is that bite mark evidence has never gone through any kind of scientific validation, and in the past, it has been wrong.

Bite mark evidence is completely subjective in criminal law proceedings. There is no analytical test or scan that can match bite marks to a person’s teeth. Rather, it is completely up to a doctor or other witness looking at pictures of wounds and then looking at pictures of teeth. In the past, supposed experts have incorrectly linked people to bite marks. Some of these cases were later proven to never have had bite wounds at all; the marks just looked a little like them.

Bite mark evidence is scientifically unreliable and should not be used in court. When prosecutors rely on it to make a case, they should know that they are depending on evidence that is much weaker than DNA, video evidence or anything else that has scientific evidence supporting its reliability for criminal testimony.

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