Two Mississippi Women Freed After Review of Bite Mark Evidence
After spending nearly 11 years behind bars, two Mississippi women were released from prison last week when a judged vacated their aggravated assault convictions.
Leigh Stubbs and Tammy Vance were convicted of a 2001 aggravated assault, based largely on bite mark analysis, after a third female travel companion was found injured and unconscious in a hotel room. Earlier this year, attorneys from the Mississippi Innocence Project, who represent both women, argued that the original prosecutors failed to turn over favorable evidence for the defense.
Prosecutors at the original trial relied heavily on the testimony of local dentist, Dr. Michael West, who claimed he could match bite marks on the victim’s body to Stubbs and Vance, reported the Daily Leader. West has testified for the prosecution in cases in nine states, and his testimony has contributed to the wrongful convictions of DNA exonerees
. Despite being the first member ever suspended by the American Board of Forensic Odontology, Prosecutors continued to use West as an expert and courts continued to allow his testimony. According to the Daily Leader, West has said he now doubts the validity of bite mark analysis.
Family members of the women, including Stubb’s brother-in-law Steve Wade, expressed their disappointment in the attorney general for defending cases in which testimony by West was used. The Daily Leader reports:
“The Mississippi attorney general and Lincoln County district attorney should commit to pursue charges against Dr. Michael West for fraudulent testimony and perjury,” Wade said.
A hearing scheduled for August 6 will determine if prosecutors will seek a retrial or drop the charges.
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