AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The Texas Forensic Science Commission is now recommending that courts no longer use bite mark analysis in criminal cases.
Bite mark analysis matches teeth to bite marks like you would match a shoe to a footprint or a tire to tire tracks.
Since there is no analytical, repeatable science behind the method, this commission is asking Texas judges to consider bite mark analysis invalid.
This commission was approached by the Innocence Project last year, asking for an investigation into bite mark analysis.
The request was on behalf of a client who spent more than 20 years in prison because of bite mark analysis that lead to a wrongful conviction.
Progressions in forensic science have allowed DNA from saliva accompanying bite marks to be tested in older cases.
"We believe this is the reason why several folks who have previously been convicted on the basis of bite mark evidence have been exonerated," said Dr. Harvey Kessler, a Commissioner for the Texas Forensic Science Commission. "They were able to go back and test the DNA and show that their DNA didn't match the DNA that was in the bite mark."
At least two dozen men nationwide convicted or charged with murder or rape based on bite marks have been exonerated since 2000.
"We are in the process now of trying to search through the records of trial cases in Texas where bite mark evidence was presented," said Kessler. "This is to see whether or not the testimony given is within the bounds of what is considered acceptable for pattern injury comparisons."
"When you talk about opening up these old bad junk science cases, you're not talking about letting hundreds or thousands of people out of prison," said Jeff Blackburn, founder of the Texas Innocence Project. "There are really very few examples of convictions that were just based on junk science."
The commission cannot ban the use of this evidence, but this recommendation is expected to have a big impact in courtrooms.
"Judges are going to have to decide," said Blackburn. "But I would say the days of bite mark evidence are numbered."
The subcommittee on bite mark analysis will meet again in a couple months to discuss ongoing research and the possibility of making bite mark analysis a reliable forensics method.