Forensic Bitemark Identification Evidence in Canada
UBC Law Review, Forthcoming
50 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2018
Date Written: June 22, 2018
Recent reviews by peak scientific bodies have concluded that forensic bitemark identification is not a demonstrably valid science. In the United States, the practice of forensic bitemark identification has been linked to at least 14 wrongful convictions and has been the subject of considerable academic study. Much less is known about the use of forensic bitemark identification in Canadian courts. To remedy this lack of knowledge, we performed an exhaustive search of the reported Canadian case law. We found 14 cases in which courts relied on a forensic bitemark identification, a number that likely underestimates the use of this practice. Still, in the cases we found, forensic bitemark experts overstated the accuracy and reliability of their practice, and did not appear to disclose the considerable controversy in the field. Furthermore, and despite repeated directions from the Supreme Court of Canada that trial judges should exercise a robust gatekeeper role in the face of invalid science, none of the courts excluded bite mark analysis, nor expressly questioned the scientific validity of the practice. We discuss these findings and provide recommendations based on the principle of transparency.
Keywords: Forensic Science, Expert Evidence, Wrongful Convictions, Miscarriages of Justice, Evidence Law, Criminal Law, Daubert, Mohan, White Burgess, Transparency, Bias, Bitemarks, Bitemark Analysis, Bitemark Identification, Forensic Bitemark Identification
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation