Bite-mark comparisons have been under fire for more than a decade as at least 11 prisoners convicted of rape or murder based largely on bite mark-comparisons were exonerated across the country — eight of them with DNA evidence.
Bite-mark comparisons also have led to successful convictions of murderers and rapists and been responsible for eliminating suspects from crimes they didn't commit.
Here are some noteworthy examples of both:
CASES IN WHICH BITE-MARK COMPARISONS WERE WRONG:
— In Arizona, a jury found Ray Krone guilty in 1992 of killing a Phoenix bartender based largely on expert testimony that his teeth matched bites on the victim. He was sentenced to death, won a new trial on procedural grounds, was convicted again and got life. DNA testing in 2002 proved he wasn't the killer, and Krone was freed.
— In Wisconsin, Robert Lee Stinson walked out of prison in January 2009 after spending 23 years there as part of a life sentence. Stinson was convicted of murder in 1984 after two forensic dentists testified that his teeth matched eight bite marks found on a 63-year-old Milwaukee woman who had been beaten to death. Stinson was let out after new DNA analysis showed that he didn't match saliva found on the woman's sweater.
— In Mississippi, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were exonerated in 2008 after being convicted in separate child rape-murders in the 1990s based on testimony from a forensic dentist who said their teeth were exact matches to bite marks on the victims. DNA tests later connected a third man to one of the rapes, and investigators say he confessed to both murders. In Brewer's case, a panel of experts concluded that the bites on the victim probably came from insects.
SUCCESSFUL CASES USING BITE-MARK COMPARISONS:
— In 1979, serial killer Ted Bundy was convicted after forensic dentists compared his teeth with a deep bite mark found on the buttocks of Lisa Levy, a Florida State University student who had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in a Chi Omega sorority house. Three of his chipped teeth matched three unique scrapes on the bite. Bundy, believed responsible for at least 30 killings, later was executed.
— Earlier this year in Los Angeles, former police Detective Stephanie Lazarus was convicted of killing a woman 26 years ago. There were no witnesses, no fingerprints, no gun and little forensic evidence. But there was a bite mark, which recently was tested for DNA and led police to arrest Lazarus for killing Sherri Rasmussen, a 29-year-old nursing supervisor who had married the man that Lazarus loved. Lazarus was sentenced in May to 27 years to life in prison.