Santa Barbara Independent
The Story of Eric Frimpong
Most sports columnists would’ve jumped on the story, but I approached the arrest and rape conviction of UCSB soccer star Eric Frimpong as though it were a hydrogen bomb. I chose to duck instead of cover. Frimpong, a West African who had arrived in Santa Barbara just 19 months earlier, was charged last Feb. 17 with having violently raped a 19-year-old coed on an Isla Vista beach.
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A COMMON GOAL IS JUSTICE FOR ALL
by Kim A. Seefeld, trial lawyer and former prosecutor
Representatives of the Rape Crisis Center have published a number of articles in the local print media criticizing the many people who have come forward to protest what they believe is the wrongful conviction of Eric Frimpong for rape.
Among the RCC’s complaints is that it was inappropriate for anyone to attend the Martin Luther King commemorative march to quietly and respectfully shine a light on the injustice being done a young black in this community; this despite Martin Luther King’s dedication of his life to abolishing injustice by non-violent protest and confrontation. In fact, a female member of the RCC contingent approached some female Frimpong supporters at the King rally, very aggressively challenging that they were doing violence to women by their very presence at the rally. A man among the group remarked that a bunch of “white people” had no business attending the King rally in Frimpong’s support.
With this attack the RCC not only threw a whole slew of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right of assembly, right of free expression and speech, right out the window, they also exhibited the very racial prejudice that Dr. King abhorred.
Rape is a terrible crime. Wrongfully convicting a man of rape is equally terrible.
The work of the RCC is laudable and has greatly helped correct past inequities for victims of sexual assault in the criminal justice system. However, the RCC advocates in this case appear so devoted to their mission that they do not accept that an accused must be afforded a presumption of innocence and convicted only by evidence proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused actually physically raped the accuser.
The pendulum has clearly swung too far when in their fervor to protect “victims”, they defend a rape conviction without any physical evidence to prove that there was sexual intercourse between the accused and the accuser; an accuser with a blood alcohol level of .29-.34, who herself told authorities she had large “chunks” of memory missing as to what happened the night of February 16, 2007.
These are simply the facts and those facts, when combined with serious errors in the investigation and trial of the case scream out that a grave injustice has been done. This injustice is not just apparent to Frimpong’s many devoted friends but to complete strangers who have watched in horror as this case has unfolded and demand to know what happened.
The public outcry is not, as the RCC would have us believe, intended as an attack on the the “victim”. That is a mere diversion. No one forced this young woman to party all night in IV, drinking herself into oblivion to the point that she had no memory of what happened that wasn’t supplied by her friends and the authorities (a fact borne out by the interviews). It is a true and sincere belief that in a case involving a highly impaired accuser and no physical evidence of sexual intercourse between her and the accused that the criminal justice system failed to protect Eric’s presumption of innocence or require the prosecution to conduct itself according to the law and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The question of what happened in the investigation, whether law enforcement and the prosecution violated Frimpong’s legal and civil rights, whether the trial was conducted fairly, whether the jury was misled and pressured during deliberations, how a rape conviction can possibly stand without physical evidence of an attack and rape of the accuser by the accused, will all be hashed out in the courts. The recorded record of what happened in the trial is the best evidence of what transpired during the trial, not the prosecutor and RCC personnel’s characterizations of it in the media.
The RCC no doubt shares the same goal as those who challenge the Frimpong verdict; that true justice be fairly done for both the accuser and the accused, and in the process for the entire community.
While this process plays out, rather than “shooting the messengers” who challenge that justice be done in the Frimpong case, perhaps the committed RCC advocates could develop a program to work with UCSB and the greater community to address and educate the young people in I.V. to eschew the drunken eternal “Spring Break”/ “Girls Gone Wild” party scene that gave rise to this tragic case.
(the author has no relationship to the parties involved in this case)
Kim A. Seefeld:; email@example.com- 805 570-8020
Dear Mr. Gordon:
Why is the Daily Sound printing a letter from Robert Glogow, a former Santa Barbara County D.A. ( Thursday, January 24, 2008) regarding some unidentified “latest offering” by me, when I have never submitted anything for publication in the Daily Sound?
Mr. Glogow’s failure to disclose his past relationship with the prosecutors and apparent need to publicly defend them, albeit by misstating the evidence, is telling.
There was no DNA from Eric Frimpong on the accuser, anywhere. Given the allegations of a violent, sexual attack it is scientifically astounding for there to have been no DNA transfer by skin contact, hair, sweat or other bodily fluid. There was no fathomable explanation why. There was no vaginal DNA of the accuser found on Frimpong. There was no evidence that any abrasion on the accuser was made by Frimpong’s teeth. Thus Eric was convicted of rape with no physical evidence of intercourse between him and the accuser; only the word of a girl with a .29-.34 blood alcohol level, who told the authorities that she had whole “chunks” of memory missing about what had happened.
The detectives’ violated Eric’s rights and hid exculpatory evidence. The prosecutor improperly told the jury that Eric had no alibi. The court refused to the jury’s requests to review specific pieces of evidence, all leading to a grave miscarriage of justice.
Will we as a community accept this or demand that justice be done?
Kim A. Seefeld
Independent : There was no DNA of former UCSB soccer player Eric Frimpong—on trial for allegedly raping a 19-year-old UCSB student—found in or on the alleged victim in the case, a criminalist with the state Department of Justice testified Monday.
The victim’s DNA was found on a swab taken of Frimpong’s penis, as was DNA from another girl, although the victim’s DNA was more prevalent. On a scrotal swab taken of Frimpong, his DNA, along with two different women’s DNA was found. Criminalist Lillian Tugado couldn’t rule out the alleged victim’s DNA as being one of the two. There are different sources of DNA Tugado said, including skin cells, hair, saliva, mucus, semen and vaginal fluids. She testified at the preliminary hearing that it was impossible to tell what sort of cells the DNA found on Frimpong came from.
It would also be impossible to tell when semen found in the alleged victim’s underwear after the alleged rape incident occurred could have been deposited, although Tugado verified Tuesday that that semen was indeed that of her “intimate partner,” Benjamin Randall. The young woman had earlier testified that the two had last had sex on February 13, and that Randall had worn a condom. Randall had testified the last intimate encounter had taken place about a week before the incident. The defense is alleging that Randall could be the culprit in the case—not Frimpong—and that, while they hung out the night in question, Randall was not present on the beach, where the victim was allegedly raped. None of Frimpong’s DNA was found on her face either, where she suffered some sort of trauma, either from a hit or a bite.
Coming out Tuesday in the testimony of lead investigator Detective Daniel Kies were Frimpong’s phone records. According to the records, he didn’t make any phone calls between 11:56 p.m. and 1:10 a.m., when he checked his voice mail. He did receive multiple phone calls within that time span, but it isn’t clear by the records whether or not the calls were answered. The alleged victim first contacted her friends around 1 a.m. telling them she had been raped.
Kies will take the stand tomorrow at 10 a.m., followed by a local dentist, who is expected to give testimony about whether the injury the victim suffered to her face could have been a bite and, if so, who could have bitten her. The prosecution is expected to rest Tuesday, with Frimpong’s fate expected to land in the hands of the jury by Friday.
Independent : Easily the most noteworthy event of the last two days of testimony in the rape trial of UCSB student Eric Frimpong would have to be the testimony of Judy Malmgren, a nurse and certified sexual assault response examiner. Malmgren described the examinations she performed on both the alleged rape victim and Frimpong himself.
Malmgren said the alleged victim did not appear to be intoxicated as she understood questions and responded coherently as she was interviewed during the examination process. Malmgren recalled that she obtained a urine sample, which is used to perform a pregnancy test and toxicology exams to determine if the patient has been drugged or has been using drugs. According to Malmgren’s report, the alleged victim admitted to having had vaginal sex with the use of a condom within five days of the night of her alleged rape and had smoking marijuana two days before. The alleged victim also said she’d had seven or eight shots of vodka on the night of the alleged rape.
Malmgren’s report also detailed the numerous abrasions and bruises on the alleged victim’s body from a circular bruise on the buttocks to a reddening caused by burst capillaries on the neck where the alleged victim claimed she had pain from when she was choked. Additionally, the examination revealed four streaked red lines and the alleged victim’s inner thigh resembling a handprint and also detailed the two injuries the young woman had on her face where she claims her attacker struck her. This examination of the body eventually led to a detailed investigation of the alleged victim’s genitals at which point prosecutor Mary Barron asked Malmgren to use a laser pointer to point out to the jury on the overhead diagrams where she found actively bleeding lacerations on the alleged victim’s vagina. These lacerations, according to Malmgren, are common signs of rape. In addition to the lacerations, Malmgren’s investigation also found debris such as sand on both labia of the alleged victim’s vagina. Malice then described how the evidence, including photographs and video of the injuries, was collected, sealed, and handed over to law enforcement for analysis.
After a short break, during which defense attorney Sanger questioned the relevance of the evidence that would be soon shown to the jury, a DVD recording of Malmgren’s examination was presented that showed, in graphic detail, the injuries the alleged victim sustained during her attack. Sanger’s objection was that the attack was not in question, but who had attacked the alleged victim therefore the evidence was not relevant to the case especially since the previous testimony from Malmgren had already established what the video contained. Judge Brian Hill allowed the video to be shown, much to the discomfort of some present. Barron’s intentions soon became clear as a total of eight minutes of footage showed the injuries in a way that Malmgren’s diagrams could not, especially in the case of the facial abrasions where purportedly the attacker struck the alleged victim as she was raped. While previously reported as a possible bite mark, the alleged victim’s facial wounds looked extremely swollen suggesting much harsher violence. The remaining seven minutes of the video were not for the squeamish, as it documented the in depth examination of the alleged victim’s vagina.
The session ended with Malmgren beginning to describe the examination of Frimpong, which took place at 4 p.m. the following day. Malmgren testified that she found no scratches, dried secretions, or other telltale marks of rape on Frimpong’s body after which the court was adjourned for the remainder of the day.
Proceedings earlier that day were more of the standard fare for the trial so fare: Robert Sanger continuing to go on the offensive in his cross examination of witnesses. Sanger’s questions directed at investigators seem to be supporting the strategy that they focused on Frimpong at the exclusion of other suspects. Sanger also seems to be suggesting that theevidence collecting process at some point along the line was tainted. On the stand, Detective Michael Scherbarth tediously recount how he, along with Detective Daniel Kies, handled the investigation of the case, everything from the collection and storage of evidence, to the way they interviewed the alleged victim and how they found Frimpong.
Sanger had Scherbarth examine the pants Frimpong said he had been wearing the night prior, and the pants had a button-up fly, not a zipper fly. The pants, shielded by a clear, plastic evidence bag, also were not cuffed, as Scherbarth had testified on Tuesday that they had been, with sand in the cuff. Frimpong’s shirt was recovered with no sand on it and with no tears in it. Scherbarth didn’t remember collecting any of Frimpong’s shoes either. “You would’ve asked him for his shoes wouldn’t you?” Sanger asked, with the detective responding, “I believe so.”
“What happened to his shoes?” Sanger asked. “I have no idea,” Scherbarth responded.
When Kies and Scherbarth interviewed the alleged victim in her dorm that morning, Scherbarth said he remembered Kies using harsh language. Sanger asked if it was pointed toward Frimpong. “In that interview, do you remember Detective Kies say ‘We’re gonna get that asshole’?” Scherbarth responded by saying he remembered the language, but in a more general way not “in reference to the suspect.” Kies also apparently used the word “motherfucker” and “asshole” again to describe the suspect. Sanger asked Scherbarth if he remembered the alleged victim and her friends flirting with the detectives at the end of the initial interview the morning after the incident. He answered, saying they hadn’t been flirting. “Do you remember them giggling and saying, ‘Oh, I want to be a detective’ and things like that?” Sanger asked. Scherbarth responded, “Yes I do.”
Sanger said that the two detectives never focused on anyone beyond Frimpong — including the alleged victim’s intimate partner, Benjamin Randall. Sanger, in his questioning, has suggested Randall was lurking nearby throughout the night. In the original interview, the alleged victim didn’t tell the detectives she had been with Randall. They also didn’t know at the time that Randall’s semen was found in the victim’s underwear that night — a piece of evidence which hasn’t yet been introduced, but has been mentioned by Sanger multiple times. Sanger also read from a transcript of the detectives’ initial interview of the young woman, in which it sounds like the alleged victim believed she had been bit on her right cheek, while Kies seemed to introduce the idea that the mark was from a bite. “Yeah, he bit her, he bit her, the motherfucker,” Sanger quoted Kies as saying.
Thursday was marked by rather quiet proceedings, up until a heated end-of-the-day exchange between Sanger and Barron. In the exchange, Sanger again pointed out many of the specific key points in his defense of Frimpong.
The exchange came after the slow beginning of testimony from Dianne Burns, a senior criminalist stationed in the state’s Department of Justice laboratory in Goleta. Burns has little to no recollection of receiving and analyzing evidence received from the sheriff’s department — it was received almost ten months ago — and thus has to rely on her notes taken at the time, something Sanger objected too early and often. The notes are not part of official business documents, and the notes cannot be used as evidence. Since Burns can’t remember what happened exactly, Barron must now first ask her a question, get a response from Burns saying she can’t remember, and then Barron can ask her to look at her notes to assist her memory. (This reality should lead to a long and tedious examination of Burns tomorrow.)
The issue is an important one, Sanger is arguing, because he wants to know exactly who handled the evidence and what happened to it. “We think there is the possibility of contamination in this case,” he said Sanger also added an objection to the anticipated calling of Dr. Norman Sperber. He contends that he just received a report today that had information saying that bite marks found on the 19-year-old alleged victim’s body do essentially rule out Randall. “We just got a report today [saying] he’s ruling out Mr. Randall,” Sanger adamantly explained. “This isn’t some conspiracy theory on the part of the defense” that Randall might’ve committed the crime. Barron said she intended to call not just Sperber, but a local dentist who will testify about two dental castings—one from Randall and one from Frimpong—he looked at and ruled out a Randall match with the bite marks found on the woman’s face and buttocks.
Sanger said that because he didn’t receive any information from Barron beyond the one-page report, he would need photos and other information taken with regard to the teeth marks, and consult with his own expert. A hearing has been set up for 9:30 a.m. Friday to discuss the issue, before Burns takes the stand again at 10 a.m.
Daily Nexus : After seven days of hearing testimony, the prosecution continues to build its case against former UCSB soccer star Eric Frimpong.
During Monday’s proceedings, the jury listened to the conclusion of the alleged rape victim’s testimony, which consisted mainly of defense attorney Robert Sanger’s cross-examination. Other witnesses included an emergency room doctor, two detectives, a forensics expert and the first man to make contact with the woman after the assault. Frimpong currently stands on trial for the alleged rape of a UCSB student that occurred at an Isla Vista beach on Feb. 17. He is also charged with the sexual assault of another woman who came forward after the former soccer player was arrested.
The defense questioned the alleged victim during cross-examination, focusing on her level of intoxication, memory, hesitancy to contact authorities after the incident, and relationship with on-again-off-again boyfriend Benjamin Randall.
According to her testimony, the woman was arrested for driving under the influence when she was seventeen. She is still currently on probation from the DUI and ordered to abstain from drinking alcohol. She said it was for this reason that she was hesitant to call the police immediately after the incident.
Sanger spent considerable time establishing the alleged victim’s level of intoxication. According to her testimony, the woman, who at the time weighted approximately 115 pounds, did not eat dinner and consumed at least ten drinks throughout the duration of the night.
Sanger proceeded to probe her memory of the night, asking several questions concerning specific details of the attack that she was unable to answer. In addition, her statements given to detectives that night contain few details past her last game of beer pong with the defendant. At one point, Sanger directly confronted the woman about her memory of the night in question.
“Really, your memory of the night ends sometime around the end of that beer pong game, doesn’t it?” Sanger asked.
The woman responded that she remembered part of the evening and more later in the night.
The defense also focused on the woman’s intimate friend, Benjamin Randall. The alleged victim, as well as Randall, had already testified that the two crossed paths on Del Playa Drive, during which time she was walking with Frimpong back to his residence to play beer pong. The two shared a short conversation at that time. After establishing the situation, Sanger asked if Randall followed the two to Frimpong’s residency. The woman said that he did not, but the defense continued to stress the possibility.
While a DNA expert was unavailable on Wednesday to testify due to a family emergency, information concerning DNA had been previously presented by both attorneys. DNA was also a key subject during the pre-trial hearings.
According to the district attorney, the alleged victim’s DNA was found on the defendant’s scrotum, while none of Frimpong’s DNA was found on her. Additionally, Randall’s semen was found on the woman’s panties. She testified that the last time she had sexual intercourse with Randall was on Feb. 13 – three days before the day of the alleged attack.
Judy Malmgren, a forensic nurse examiner working with the Santa Barbara Sexual Assault Response Team, was the most recent witness to testify before the jury. Her testimony focused on her role in examining and collecting forensic evidence from both the woman and Frimpong in the hours after the alleged attack.
Malmgren said the woman did not seem intoxicated and was able to communicate easily, albeit tearfully, with her during the interview. Although the woman described parts of the attack as “blurry” in her mind, Malmgren said such memory loss is “not at all unusual” of trauma victims. She said that although alcohol consumption may have played a role in the woman’s uncertain recollection regarding parts of the attack, the “shock” of trauma can make such events hard to process.
Malgreen testified that a black-light exam, designed to identify proteins such as those found in saliva, semen or lotion on the body, revealed no traces of any such fluids from Frimpong on the woman. She said the failure to find traces of sperm could signify that the woman’s attacker did not ejaculate.
Malmgren then described the various wounds found on the woman’s body during the examination process, which included swelling on her face, bruising on the neck typical of strangulation, linear lacerations that looked like finger scratches on the inner thigh and a wound on the right buttock. Additionally, the woman had bleeding, open tearing and sand-like debris on her genitals.
The woman’s state of mind and level of intoxication was also prominent in both the prosecution and defense’s questioning of Dr. Gregory Olsen during Tuesday’s proceedings. According to Olsen, the emergency room physician who first treated the alleged victim, her blood alcohol level, which was taken immediately after her first examination, was .20 – well above the legal limit of .08. Olsen, however, also testified that the woman was responsive and never lost consciousness. When asked what a blood alcohol level of .20 would do to someone, he replied that it varies greatly from person to person.
******************************************************************************************Cases Where DNA Revealed that Bite Mark Analysis Led to Wrongful Arrests and ConvictionsForensic science errors are a leading cause of wrongful convictions nationwide. Scientific errors, fraud or limitations were a factor in 63% of the first 86 DNA exoneration cases, according to an August 2005 analysis of the cases published in Science magazine. These forensic science mishaps include everything from lab analysts who committed fraud to expert witnesses who relied on analyses of forensic disciplines which have never been adequately validated to identify a perpetrator such as: hair, bullets, handwriting, footprints, or bite marks. Using DNA – which provides a precise identification that other methods cannot – wrongful convictions were exposed years or even decades later.Bite mark analysis is particularly troubling because of the almost complete absence of validated rules, regulations, or processes for accreditation that establish standards for experts or the testimony they provide. Unlike other areas of forensic analysis, forensic dentists are generally self-employed rather than employees of an accredited lab and hence they can avoid even that layer of oversight. Moreover, no government entity has ever reviewed the validity of bite mark evidence. “[B]ite mark analysis has never passed through the rigorous scientific examination that is common to most normal sciences,” according to the 2002 book Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony.There are approximately 100 forensic odontologists in the country who have been certified by boards controlled by other odontologists – generally speaking, their friends and colleagues – but not accredited by an entity that applies scientific rigor. Much forensic odontology work involves comparing dental records to well-preserved teeth of people who died in fires or other tragedies – but comparing an accused person’s teeth to marks on a victim’s body is far more subjective, and far more prone to error. As noted in Modern Scientific Evidence, “The rate of error in bite mark identification, particularly the rate of false positive errors, appears to be quite high.” In fact, only three studies have examined the reliability of bite mark analysis. All three show serious problems. One showed an error rate – a rate of false identifications – as high as 91%. Another (conducted by the American Board of Forensic Odontology) found a 63.5% rate of false identifications, and the third showed an error rate of 11.9% to 22% of false identifications among forensic odontologists and noted that the “poor performance” is cause for concern because it has “very serious implications for the accused, the discipline, and society.”The Innocence Project believes that all forensic disciplines need to be scientifically validated through truly independent research and peer review before the methodologies are used in criminal cases where life and liberty are at stake. Moreover, even if the methodology is valid, bias, incompetence, or a lack of adequate internal controls can compromise the integrity of the results. The Innocence Project’s position is based on fundamental principles of good science and the disturbing narratives of innocent people, arrested and convicted of crimes based on bite mark analysis, only to eventually be proven innocent through DNA testing.Following are five cases where people were convicted based largely on bite mark analysis, only to be proven innocent through DNA years later:Willie Jackson in Louisiana
DNA testing exonerated Willie Jackson in 2006 and implicated his brother in a Louisiana rape. The victim identified Jackson as the assailant in a photo array and also in a live line-up. His brother also appeared in a line-up but was not identified by the victim. However, Jackson lived 185 miles away from the scene of the crime, while his brother lived in the area. Several other factors tied his brother to the crime: When police searched Jackson’s mother’s house, they found a sweater with his brother’s name on it that was similar to the one described by the victim; Jackson’s mother drove a car similar to the victim’s description; and a bartender testified that he saw Jackson’s brother, and not Jackson himself, in the same bar as the victim the night of the rape. In addition to eyewitness testimony, the prosecution presented a forensic odontologist who testified that bite marks on the victim matched Jackson’s teeth. Just days after Jackson was convicted in 1989, his brother confessed to the crime but was not charged. Sixteen years later, Jackson was released based on DNA test results. In addition, a second, independent odontologist argued that the earlier finding was incorrect and that the bite marks actually matched Jackson’s brother. His brother was already serving a life sentence for an unrelated rape.Ray Krone in Arizona
Based largely on bite mark analysis, Ray Krone was convicted of murdering a Phoenix bartender and sentenced to death plus 21 years. Krone became known as the “snaggle-tooth killer” when an impression of his jagged teeth (in a Styrofoam cup) was said to match the bite marks on the breast and neck of the murder victim. She had been fatally stabbed, and the perpetrator left behind little physical evidence. There were no fingerprints; blood at the scene matched the victim’s type; and saliva on her body came from someone with the most common blood type. There was no semen, and no DNA tests were performed. First convicted in 1992, Krone won a re-trial in 1996 and was convicted again mainly on the state’s supposed expert bite-mark testimony. His death sentence, however, was reduced to life in prison. Finally, in 2002, Krone was released after DNA testing proved that he could not have been the perpetrator. Instead, saliva and blood found on the victim matched a convicted rapist.Calvin Washington in Texas
Calvin Washington was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in Texas in 1987. It was alleged that Washington, either acting alone or with Joe Sidney Williams, robbed, raped, and murdered the victim. An expert witness testified that bruises on the victim’s body were bite marks that matched Williams’ teeth. A jailhouse informant claimed that he heard Washington and Williams make incriminating statements when he walked by their hotel room one night. Meanwhile, the defense presented over a dozen Waco, Texas, police officers who testified to the unreliability of the jailhouse informant. The prosecution also produced evidence that the defendants were in possession of the victim’s car and had sold items belonging to the victim on the night of the crime. Both Williams and Washington were convicted. Williams’ conviction was overturned and the prosecution declined to retry him. Washington served 13 years in prison before DNA test results exonerated him in 2001. Testing also showed that fluids taken from the victim did not come from Washington, but rather from another man, since deceased.James O’Donnell in New York
James O’Donnell became a suspect in an attempted sodomy case on the basis of a police sketch. A Staten Island resident, having seen the sketch in the newspaper, contacted the police and named O’Donnell. The victim later identified O’Donnell in a photo array and in a live line-up, but a second witness who was also at the scene of the crime did not identify him. The victim had passed out after struggling with the assailant. He bit her on the hand and she scratched him. The bite mark was said to match impressions of O’Donnell’s teeth, but DNA testing of the saliva on the bite mark later disproved the finding. Testing of the fingernail scrapings matched the saliva and further proved that O’Donnell was not the perpetrator. He was exonerated in 2000, after over two years of wrongful incarceration.Dan Young in Illinois
Dan Young spent 12 years in prison before DNA testing cleared his name in a Chicago murder. His conviction was based on a bite mark match and a false confession. Young was mentally handicapped and could not read or write. An initial analysis of the bite mark found a match between Young’s teeth and the bite mark, but a more recent analysis, commissioned by the defense, contradicted this finding. The odontologist who aided in Young’s conviction later said that the prosecution pushed him to exaggerate his results. Young was released in early 2005.Bite mark analysis has also caused an unknown number of innocent men and women to be arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit. Some of these people became ensnared in police investigations on the basis of nothing more than an erroneous bite mark “match.” The following people languished in jails awaiting trial until DNA testing lead to their release:
- In 1994, Anthony Otero of Detroit was charged with first-degree murder, rape, and larceny in the death of a 60-year-old woman. A forensic odontologist testified at a preliminary examination that Otero was “the only person in the world” who could have inflicted bite marks found on the victim’s breast and thigh. After Otero spent five months in jail awaiting trial, the state dismissed the charges after a newly available DNA test excluded him as the perpetrator.
- Dale Morris, Jr., was arrested in 1997 based on bite mark analysis matching his dentition to a mark on a nine-year-old murder victim. Morris was a neighbor to the little girl who was found stabbed, sexually assaulted, and bitten in a field near her Florida home. He spent four months in jail until DNA tests proved his innocence.
- A police dog led officers to the home of Edmund Burke during an investigation in the murder of a 75-year-old woman from Massachusetts. The assailant had left a bite mark on her breast. The odontologist in the case compared photos of the bite wound with a mold made from Burke’s teeth and concluded “to a reasonable scientific certainty” that Burke had made the mark. However, just weeks after his arrest, DNA taken from saliva from the bite mark was tested and Burke was released.