All nine episodes of The Innocence Files are streaming on Netflix now and true-crime viewers are still trying to wrap their heads around bite mark analysis, which rose to fame in the 1980s. Dr Michael West appears in the first three episodes of The Innocence Files in support of the practice but who is he and where is he now? Express.co.uk has everything you need to know.
Who is Doctor Michael West?
Doctor Michael West is a forensic odontologist also known as a ‘bite mark expert’ from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Bite mark analysis gained prominence in the 1980s during the trial of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.
In Ted Bundy’s trial, Dr Richard Souviron features prominently in episode one of the series, in the cases of Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer.
Dr West rose to fame in the 1980s, as a self-proclaimed forensic dentistry expert.
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His work involves taking teeth impressions from the accused and using the models to see if they match the marks inflicted on the victim.
Dr Michael West features prominently in episode one of the series, in the cases of Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer.
During their trials, he coined the phrase “Indeed and without a doubt” which the episode is named after.
He also testified at the trials of violent criminals using ‘bite mark analysis’.
In the separate trials of Brooks and Brewer, Brooks received a life sentence and Brewer the death penalty.
In both of their trials, he served as a prosecution witness, arguing that their bite marks matched those on the body of their victims.
However, since the early 2000’s the credibility of bite mark analysis has been vastly disputed.
In the documentary, his work was discredited by Dr Richard Souviron, who pointed out his models only focused on the upper parts of the mouth.
Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were later found to be innocent based on DNA evidence with the aid of the Innocence Project. Their story is told in The Innocence Files on Netflix.
They were exonerated after serving a combined 30 years for the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Smith and Christina Jackson respectively.
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The real murderer in both cases, Justin Albert Johnson, was even a suspect at one point, and Dr West ruled him out, saying his teeth didn’t match wounds on the victim which he claimed were bite marks.
In The Innocence Files, it is also uncovered that the marks Dr West analysed were actually crawfish bites and not human bites, sustained from the pond the two young victims were found in.
Throughout the first three of nine episodes, Dr West defends his stance as a forensic odontologist and the importance and reliability of bite mark analysis.
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Where is Dr West now?
At the moment, Dr West’s whereabouts are not known.
However, after many guilty convictions were overturned thanks to DNA evidence which disproved bite mark analysis.
In 2011, in a deposition obtained by Clarion-Ledger, West said: “I no longer believe in the bite-mark analysis. I don’t think it should be used in court.
“I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out.”
However, The Innocence Files was filmed years later and in it, he appears to defend bite mark analysis strongly.
Express.co.uk will update this article when more information is available.
The Innocence Files is streaming on Netflix now
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