After nearly three decades of conducting bite mark analysis in nine states, Mississippi forensic dentist Michael West now rejects the science he once embraced, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
“I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis,” he said in a 2011 deposition obtained by The Clarion-Ledger. “I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out.”
“The science is not as exact as I had hoped.”
At one point, the science of identifying bite marks was cutting edge, he said. “DNA has made it fairly obsolete.”
West contributed testimony in the cases of
, both of whom were later exonerated through DNA testing. And earlier this year, two Mississippi women who were convicted of aggravated assault based, in part, on West’s bite mark analysis were released from prison when a judge vacated their aggravated assault convictions and ordered a new trial. Leigh Stubbs and Tammy Vance, who are represented by the Mississippi Innocence Project, will be arraigned today in Brookhaven.
Brewer and Brooks were wrongfully convicted of separate child murders in 1992 and 1995 respectively. After steadfastly maintaining their innocence for years, they were exonerated in 2008 when DNA evidence led authorities to the real perpetrator in both cases. Even after Brooks and Brewer were cleared, West maintained that the men bit the victims.
He reiterated that claim in the deposition. “I never accused them of killing or raping anybody – just biting them while they were alive,” West said. “If I have a bite mark on one part of the body and semen on another part of the body, to me it’s evidence that there are two people involved.”
West estimates that he’s worked on 16,000 cases, and has testified as a bite mark expert 81 times. Of the 38 Mississippi criminal trials in which The Clarion-Ledger could find a record of West’s testimony, 31 ended in convictions.
Given West’s recent dismissal of bite mark analysis, Stubbs and Vance are hopeful the Attorney General will drop the charges against them. Read the