The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!
by Nan Swift, Improbable Research staff
Iain Pretty is Professor of Public Health Dentistry at the University of Manchester, U.K.
David Sweet is a Dentistry Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and has been Chief Scientific Officer for the identification section of INTERPOL, the international police organization.
Pretty and Sweet have teamed up repeatedly for a scientific effort that, more fully than any other, is Pretty/Sweet. Here are some of their works.
Pretty/Sweet 2000: Where Bites
“Anatomical Location of Bitemarks and Associated Findings in 101 Cases from the United States,” Iain A. Pretty and David J. Sweet, Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 45, no. 4, 2000, pp. 812–4.
The total number of bitemarks included in the study was 148. Four bites were found on nonhuman substrates (apple, cheese, paper towel, and sandwich). These bites on objects were included in the study to demonstrate the occurrence and relative importance of bites on inanimate objects.
Pretty/Sweet 2001: Biting Criticism
“The Scientific Basis for Human Bitemark Analyses: A Critical Review,” Iain A. Pretty and David J. Sweet, Science and Justice: Journal of the Forensic Science Society, vol. 41, no. 2, April 2001, pp. 85–92.
While many studies have examined the accuracy of bitemarks on other substrates, such as cheese, apples, sandwiches, and soap, this review is restricted to human skin. This represents both the most debated area of substrate accuracy and the most commonly bitten material....
The review revealed a lack of valid evidence to support many of the assumptions made by forensic dentists during bitemark comparisons. The new level of judicial scrutiny of such scientific evidence is likely to emphasise this lack of knowledge upon which bitemark analysis relies. The authors call for a more scientific and evidence-based approach to forensic dental research.
Pretty/Sweet 2001: Who Bites
“A Look at Forensic Dentistry—Part 2: Teeth as Weapons of Violence—Identification of BitemarkPerpetrators,” D. Sweet and I.A. Pretty, British Dental Journal, vol. 190, no. 8, 2001, pp. 415–8.
The teeth are a significant component of our natural arsenal. It is suspected that many dentists have seldom considered their patients’ teeth as such effective weapons!
Pretty/Sweet 2001: A Guide for Suspect Bites
“Adherence of Forensic Odontologists to the ABFO Bite Mark Guidelines for Suspect Evidence Collection,” Iain A. Pretty and David J. Sweet, Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 46, no. 5, 2001, p. 1152.
A questionnaire was employed during an American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting. Results showed that, in general, when the odontologists collected evidence they did adhere to the guidelines.... Of concern is the large number of odontologists who do not collect their own evidence from suspects. Police officers or other individuals often perform this task and therefore the guidelines must be disseminated to these groups to ensure that the maximum yield is obtained from bite mark evidence.
Pretty/Sweet 2002: Underdeveloped Implications
“Forensic Implications of Biting Behavior: A Conceptually Underdeveloped Area of Investigation,” David A. Webb, David Sweet, Dayle L. Hinman, and Iain A. Pretty, Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 47, no. 1, 2002, pp. 103–6.
The premise that if an individual has bitten before they are more likely to bite again has been offered into evidence by prosecutors and tenaciously objected to by defense attorneys.... There is no scientific basis for such a hypothesis.
Pretty/Sweet 2006: Judicially Viewed Bitemarks
“The Judicial View of Bitemarks Within the United States Criminal Justice System,” Iain A. Pretty and David J. Sweet, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, vol. 24, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1–11.
[The court case] Banks v. State, where the single item of physical evidence linking Banks to the crime scene was a bitemark in a sandwich, highlights a more serious example of protocol error. Following his analysis of the bitemark, the prosecution’s dental expert threw the sandwich away believing that it would become susceptible to mould and hence be useless. The destruction of this evidence denied Banks the opportunity to obtain his own expert who could examine the bitemark and rebut the prosecution’s expert.
Pretty/Sweet 2010: Shifty Bitemarks
“A Paradigm Shift in the Analysis of Bitemarks,” Iain A. Pretty and David J. Sweet, Forensic Science International, vol. 201, no. 1, 2010, pp. 38–44.
The article above is from the January-February 2015 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
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