Dentists sue over bite mark testimony

Two Illinois dentists are suing a colleague for alleged defamation after he used a Lake County rape case they worked on as an example of how bite mark evidence often leads to wrongful convictions.

Russell Schneider, DDS, of Waukegan, and Carl Hagstrom, DDS, of Fox Lake, filed their lawsuit against Michael Bowers, JD, DDS -- a California dentist who is known as "a frequent and sometimes acerbic critic" of forensic odontology -- last month in Cook County Circuit Court, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

The lawsuit alleges that Dr. Bowers spoke at a conference of forensic dentists in Chicago earlier this year and included a case they worked on in a list of 10 wrongful convictions caused by bite mark evidence. This action subjected them to ridicule and a loss of business, according to the complaint.

Bite mark testimony has been criticized by courts for its lack of a scientific foundation, essentially leaving dentists to compare by visual examination bite marks on a victim's skin with x-rays or molds of a suspect's teeth and try to determine if they match.

Even some of the forensic discipline's leading practitioners now argue that bite marks are best used to exclude suspects, not identify them, the Tribune reported.

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