A post-conviction relief hearing began Thursday for Eddie Lee Howard, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for the rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman. He is being represented by the Innocence Project and the Mississippi Innocence Project.
Howard, 62, was convicted based on the testimony of forensic odontologist Michael West, who claimed that bite marks left on the victim’s body matched dental impressions taken from Howard. There was no other physical evidence linking Howard to the crime scene.
“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 Commercial Dispatch noted that since the time of the murder investigation, views within the forensic dentistry community have shifted and bite mark evidence is no longer considered reliable. The paper pointed to an article in the Clarion Ledger where West himself was quoted from a 2012 deposition as saying, “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.”
He is expected to testify this week at the hearing, according to Director of the Mississippi Innocence Project Tucker Carrington, reports the Dispatch.
Attorneys at the Mississippi Innocence Project asked 16th Circuit Judge Lee Howard to vacate Howard’s conviction based on the disqualified bite mark evidence and new DNA evidence which excludes him as the perpetrator.
Read the Commercial Dispatch article here.