Radley Balko has an amazing tale:
After 10 years in prison, including two spent on death row, Ray Krone was exonerated and released from prison in 2002.
But Krone’s lawyer wasn’t quite finished. In addition to his job as a criminal defense attorney, Christopher Plourd is a legal specialist in forensic science, having served on several government commissions looking at the role of DNA testing in the criminal justice system.
Plourd was livid that his client could have been convicted not once, but twice, based on obviously erroneous testimony that was presented as scientific. It seemed to confirm what Plourd and other critics of bite-mark analysis have long suspected—that there is little “science” behind the method at all. So in 2001, the lawyer decided to conduct a “proficiency test” on some unknowing and prominent bite-mark expert.
Plourd chose Mississippi dentist Michael West for his test. West had long been under fire for dubious testimony in dozens of criminal cases, including one in which he claimed to be able to match the bite marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich found at the crime scene to the dentition of a defendant. I’ve written extensively on West over the last few years, most recently in a feature about the 1992 Louisiana murder trial and eventual conviction of Jimmie Duncan. In that case, I obtained a video showing West repeatedly jamming Duncan’s dental mold into the body of the young girl Duncan was accused of killing. Forensic specialists say that what West does in the video isn’t a remotely acceptable method of analysis, and may amount to criminal evidence tampering. Duncan is on death row in Louisiana, based in part on West’s analysis.***
In October 2001, working for Plourd, a private investigator named James Rix sent West the decade-old photographs of the bite marks on Ancona’s breast. Rix told West that the photos were from the three-year-old unsolved murder of a college student in Idaho. Rix then sent West a dental mold of his own teeth, but told him that they came from the chief suspect in the case. He also sent a check for $750, West’s retainer fee.
Two months later, West sent Rix a letter and accompanying 20-minute video. In the video, West meticulously explains the methodology he uses to match bite marks to dental molds. Using the photo of Ancona’s bitten breast and Rix’s own dental mold, West then reaches the conclusion Plourd and Rix suspected he would: That the mold and the photos were a definite match.
I’m kind of speechless, to be honest. I don’t know what kind of human being would just make up testimony that could sentence a man to death, assist the actual murderer in getting away with his crime, and all for the sum of $750.00. Maybe he just believes his own bs? Even then, what excuse is that? You are supposed to be a subject matter expert. This is stunning.