Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bitemark Evidence and Analysis Should Be Approached with Caution

Against the backdrop of last week's Congressional hearing into the future of forensic science, researchers from the University at Buffalo's Laboratory for Forensic Odontology Research in the School of Dental Medicine, have published a landmark paper on the controversial topic of bitemark analysis.

The Congressional hearing focused on the findings of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the scientific basis of forensic disciplines. Among the pattern evidence fields (fingerprints, tool marks, etc.) that were reviewed in the NAS report, bitemark analysis received critical commentary.

During the hearing, Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld introduced Roy Brown, wrongfully convicted on bitemark evidence and later exonerated through DNA analysis.

In anticipation of the NAS report, the new UB study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences challenges the commonly held belief that every bitemark can be perpetrator identified.

"Bitemark identification is not as reliable as DNA identification," explains the study's lead author Raymond G. Miller, D.D.S., UB clinical associate professor of oral diagnostic sciences.

"With DNA, the probability of an individual not matching another can be calculated," he says. "In bitemark analysis, there have been few studies that looked at how many people's teeth could have made the bite."

Miller's co-authors include UB's Peter J. Bush; Robert Dorion, D.D.S., DABFO, UB adjunct professor of oral diagnostic sciences; and Mary A. Bush, D.D.S., UB assistant professor of restorative dentistry. Dorion is the editor of the only comprehensive textbook on the subject of bitemarks in forensic science, Bitemark Evidence: A Color Atlas and Text, and is currently the odontology section representative to the board of directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

The current study investigated three main questions: is it possible to determine biter identity among people with similarly aligned teeth; is it possible to determine how many individuals from a larger sample might also be considered as the biter; and, if there is bite pattern distortion, is it enough to rule out a specific biter while still including a non-biter?

To answer these questions, the researchers gathered 100 stone dental models (replicas of the dentition), which were measured and divided into 10 groups based upon the misalignment patterns of the teeth. After randomly selecting one model from each of the 10 groups, the researchers impressed bitemarks on cadaver skin. After the bitemarks were created, they were then photographed and the indentations were compared to the dentitions using overlays created with photographic software.

The authors are one of the first to use a human skin model rather than animal models or non-elastic biting substrate, such as wax or Styrofoam. Current human subject restrictions limit experimentation on living subjects.

"Living bitten tissue may bleed or bruise," explains Miller. "The initial bitemark indentations rebound shortly after infliction often leaving a diffuse bruising that may be difficult to measure accurately. The indentations produced in our study represented the best conditions for measurement."

The results indicated that when dental alignments were similar, it was difficult to distinguish which set of teeth made the bites. Distortion noted in the bitemarks allowed matches even from different alignment groups. Therefore, the researchers concluded that bitemarks should be very carefully evaluated in criminal investigations where perpetrator identity is the focus of a case.

As Miller notes, "In the past 10 years, the number of court cases involving bitemark evidence that have been overturned led us to question the reasons for the erroneous bitemark identification. It's important to recognize the serious consequences of a misidentification for the accused, the victim, the families involved, the justice system and the possibility that the perpetrator is still at large."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. The School of Dental Medicine is one of five schools that constitute UB's Academic Health Center. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Sara Saldi | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>