Killed on a Technicality – Quackery in American Courtrooms

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood wants to execute a man based on discredited forensic testimony from a disgraced dentist.

…West’s bite mark testimony is the only physical evidence linking Howard to the crime scene. (The other evidence against Howard includes incriminating statements he allegedly made to a police officer that were not recorded or written down and testimony from an ex-girlfriend that Howard smelled of smoke the day after Kemp’s murder.) At the time of Howard’s conviction, West was a star forensic witness, claiming to have perfected a method of bite mark analysis no other forensic specialist could duplicate. But since Howard’s conviction, West has become the poster boy for forensic fakery.

West, who once claimed he could trace the tooth marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich at a crime scene to a defendant while excluding everyone else on the planet, has had to resign from two professional forensics organizations due to his habit of giving testimony unsupported by science. In 2001 (as I reported last year) a defense lawyer caught West in a sting aimed at revealing him as a charlatan: West matched the dental mold of a private investigator to unrelated photos of bite marks from a crime committed eight years earlier. West even sent back a video in which he methodically went through his technique. Despite all this, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Howard’s conviction and death sentence in 2006. With respect to West, the majority concluded, “Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here.”…

Continue Reading: Killed on a Technicality – Reason Magazine.

1 Comment

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