The documentary series, ‘The Innocence Files,’ sheds light on a series of cases in which individuals were wrongly accused, tried, and sent to prison. The expert advises that led to the conviction in many of these cases: forensic odontology has come under intense scrutiny following the discovery of other valid scientific means like DNA testing that is more authentic in uncovering crime.
Forensic odontology is a branch of forensic science whose preoccupation with ‘bite mark analysis’ was supposedly instrumental during the time it was founded. It gained notable fame during the trial of the Ted Bundy case. During the peak of forensic odontology, Dr. Michael West was a leading practitioner of the domain until the credibility of the subject area was vastly disputed.
Dr. Michael West: Rise to Fame Through Forensic Odontology
Dr. Michael West, rose to fame during the 1980s when he began to testify for violent crimes using what is known as ‘bite mark analysis.’ The study involves taking teeth impressions, making its models, and seeing if they are a match to crimes that involves bite marks on the victim’s body. Many sexual assault cases and murders often had the perpetrators biting the victims. In any case, it received much credibility in the aftermath of the Ted Bundy case wherein the major evidence against Bundy was a match between his teeth impression mold and the bite marks on his victim’s body.
Dr. West hails from Hattiesburg and has testified in numerous trials. His method and expert opinion came under the radar when two individuals named Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were later found to be innocent based on DNA tests. What was perhaps more alarming was that the marks on the victims’ bodies were found to be crawfish bites and not human bites. In light of this discovery, many such old cases were re-examined, and many convicted individuals were found not to be guilty. In the first three episodes of the documentary series, Dr. West can be seen defending his stance and scientific backing with much rigor. He doesn’t hold the same dignitary position once the truth about these cases came to light. He has also come under a lot of pressure for being excessively sure and arrogant about his methods without considering the probability of some error.
Where is Dr. Michael West Now?
Dr. Michael West was quite vocal against the criticism he was getting in response to his testimonials. The forensic expert throughout the course of his appearance on the documentary vouches for his stance back then. However, with the surmounting number of cases that saw a different truth with the advent of DNA testing, has discarded his’ once monumental’ claims. Even the doctor began to recede his statements for the public eye and during the re-hearing of many of his old cases. In a deposition obtained by Clarion-Ledger, he said: “I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis. I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out.”
The statement was made by Dr. West in 2011. This, however, has not let his conviction weaken in the brief time we saw him in the documentary, which was made years later. It is also true that many of his statements no longer hold valid. This is because his bite mark analysis was even discredited by other odontologists. The doctor has been laying low since six cases he testified against were proved to be wrong. Since then, he has has been labeled a “fraud” and a “quack”. He no longer provides forensic expertise.
Read More: Where is Levon Brooks Now?