Radley Balko has been writing for years about the worthlessness of “bite mark” analysis, which has been used to convict hundreds, maybe thousands, of people around the country. Michael West, a dentist who specialized in such analysis, has now admitted that it’s all bunk. And Balko makes a brief return from his book-writing hiatus to document it:
“I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis.”
This, after West put dozens of people in prison with bite mark testimony, including several on death row. Two of them, Eddie Lee Howard in Mississippi and Jimmie Duncan in Louisiana, are still awaiting execution.
The office of Mississippi Attorney Jim Hood so far has so far refused to go back and reopen all the old cases in which West has testified. Hood should have done that a long time ago. For that matter, the same goes for Hood’s predecessors. And the Mississippi Supreme Court. We’ve known for nearly 20 years now that this guy was a fraud. Hell,we’ve had video evidence. Lots of it.
Will Hood’s office still defend convictions won on West’s testimony now that even West himself concedes his field of expertise is quackery?
That’s an easy question to answer: No, he won’t, unless he’s forced to do so by the courts. Nor will any other prosecutor around the country, with the possible exception of Craig Watkins in Dallas (if he has anyone in that district convicted on the basis of bite mark evidence). Because most prosecutors don’t care about guilt or innocence, they care about protecting the public image of their office — and overturning false convictions hurts that image and makes people think they’re not infallible.