Fabricated Bitemark and Phony Surveillance Video Land Leigh Stubbs 44 Years in Mississippi Prison

By David Averill and Mike Bowers

Leigh Stubbs, Department of Corrections Photo

Leigh Stubbs has now served 10 years of a 44 year sentence based largely on the faulty testimony from discredited forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West. West testified in this trial as a multi-disciplinary expert and was allowed to give his opinion in bitemark analysis, toolmark comparison, video enhancement, crime scene reconstruction, gynecological injuries and psychological criminal motive. Of course he reminds the jury every chance he can get that he is qualified in all of these areas, and that he has lectured to the FBI, Scotland Yard and throughout China.

Stubbs is now being represented by the Innocence Project who are now petitioning for a new trial. This is yet another case that has wreaked havoc with the judicial system by offering West’s bogus expert opinion where he is once again the only one able to see the evidence that he describes. The prosecutor still used West’s testimony in this case despite West having been thoroughly discredited by every major forensic organization in the world. Not to mention the numerous cases that are adding up where innocent men have been wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit due to his faulty testimony.

Bitemark Evidence
Dr. West narrates his first video as he records his “body scan” to document the examination. The video shown below is a clip taken from the right hip where West makes no mention of recognizing a bitemark. In court when asked why there was no mention of the bitemark, he testifies that ”I missed it on the first day but realized that there was a bite after looking at some polaroid photographs that I had taken.”

In court, West describes the alleged bitemark on the hip as “not a prototypical bite mark in appearance….it has fused components from the swelling” yet he is able to give it his strongest opinion, “100 percent sure that it is a bitemark.” West cautions the jury that “I must admit to a novice, this may not appear to be a bitemark by any means.” In other words, West can only see it as a bitemark.

In his second video taken 5 days later on March 15th the area that West says “that the bitemark is no longer visible due to the nurses taking such good care of the victim and using lotion on her skin.” West then proceeds to tamper with the evidence by actually imbedding a stone cast of Leigh Stubbs teeth into the comatose victims hip resulting in a fabricated bitemark on the skin of the victim.

West comes to the conclusion that the bitemark that he sees on the hip is from the teeth of Leigh Stubbs since “the corner of tooth #7 has a little sharp area, very minute… on the skin notice this red area, we have petechia….this is the area caused by the little notch on her tooth #7…..that dot, that dot and that dot represent three teeth.” “Its a pretty good relationship there, it falls short of what we need to make 100 percent.” “There is a high degree of correlation between those teeth and this injury on this girl’s leg”. Dr. West submitted a West bitemark Report that contained two paragraphs.

Enhancement and Interpretation of Surveillance Video
The surveillance video was recorded at the motel the three girls rented for the night. The video was brought to Dr. Wests attention by the Detective in the case who thought he could see a body being removed from a toolbox in the bed of the pickup truck. Dr. West agreed that he could also see the body and said he could enhance the video to make it more visible. The police department had sent the video to the FBI for analysis and enhancement but were told that nothing could be done with the video. Dr. West then saves the day by “enhancing” the video and despite admitting that “we have a very poor imaging system…that is not designed to take high definition pictures….but probably the most important problem we have with the video is the tape had been recorded over and over and over….its about worn out.” No problem for Dr. West though, “what I see isn’t what everybody else sees, there are interpretations.” Don’t worry about your eyes if you cannot see anything on this enhanced video, remember that West is usually the only one to see what he is talking about.

West Interpretation of Video
“All the action we’re interested in now takes place between this truck and that light…as fate would have it this is where the tape had a wrinkle or started messing up…what I’m saying happens next in this clip. You’ve got to imagine her scooping her up and holding that head, with the hair to the side, closing the lid, turning around, stepping off the truck and going into the room.”
Amazing action since the timeline is 16 seconds for Leigh Stubbs to leave the motel door, get to the truck, lift the lid of a toolbox and pull a 120 pound limp unconcious person out from within a toolbox in 1-2 seconds and then haul her out of the back of the pickup stepping down and into the motel room, all within 16 seconds. It only gets more bizarre as Dr. West now recreates the crime scene. West cannot explain how come when the crime lab looked for blood, hair and fiber inside the toolbox they found none that belonged to the victim. They also found no blood on the carpet or in the bathtub of the motel room. West tried to explain that the toolbox could be washed out with water and chlorine. Problem is that they found other hair and fiber inside the box that did not belong to the victim. So much for his crime scene re-creation abilities.

Toolmark Testimony
Dr. West looked at the wound on the head of the victim and thought it looked like the latch that was on the toolbox. And when he looked at the hip where he found the bitemark he also found a toolmark in the shape of a latch from the toolbox. He measured the distance from the head wound and the hip wound and found 37 inches. You guessed it, the distance from the latches on the tool box is 37 inches. A forensic pathologist testified that the wound to the head could not have been made by closing of the lid on her head. The wound was consistent with a blunt object. Read more of the trial testimony if you are interested. I will include pdf copies of the trial at the end of this post.

Conclusion
Unfortunately the police did not do a thorough investigation, so the answers to many questions will never be known. What is known is that Leigh Stubbs dentition cannot be associated with what Dr. West describes as a bitemark on the hip of the victim.

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Bitemark Book Review

Forensic Odontology is a fascinating and challenging subject. The explosion of technological and procedural advances coupled with the general publics increased awareness through the media such as “CSI” has made forensic sciences appealing to many and seemingly infallible to others.

I have known Dr. Bowers for over twenty years. We first made acquaintance in Louisville, Kentucky in 1989 while challenging the ABFO dental certification board examination. Over these years he has earned the respect of all others in this field with his determined dedication to further forensic odontology into a respected discipline of the forensic sciences.

The second edition of “Forensic Dental Evidence: An Investigatorʼs Handbook” edited by Dr. C. Michael Bowers is written for those whose desire the knowledge, background and understanding of forensic dentistry. This book is essential reading and a valuable asset for any investigator, lawyer, medical examiner, nurse or dentist that has an interest or a role in a forensic dental case.

A highlight of this handbook is the discussion of the wrongful convictions and erroneous bitemark opinions that have surfaced in the past decade. In the early 1990s Dr. Bowers and others become cautious in the manner in which bitemark opinions were being used to identifying specific individuals in an open population. Currently there have been 10 exonerations of individuals who have served many years in prison that were falsely imprisoned as a result of faulty bitemark evidence and incorrect opinions. These opinions were not based in science and were without validity or reliability. Dr. Bowers asan impartial dental expert and DNA evidence resulted in the exoneration of these innocent individuals.

Dr. Bowers determined work in educating and informing the forensic community of the need for scientifically validated opinions in the 1990s went largely neglected by forensic dentists. In 1999 the ABFO performed a bitemark workshop to examine the ability of the expert to properly discern the biter from a lineup of unknowns. The ABFO published a paper with the results that reported the ability of the forensic dentists to identify the correct perpetrator with moderate accuracy of 86%. What was not reported was the high level of false positives that accompanied these findings. Dr. Bowers high ethical standards compelled him to uncover the actual findings that revealed this high false positive rate that was not exposed in the scientific paper published by the ABFO.

Recognizing that improvements were necessary in the forensic sciences Congress directed the National Academy of Science to study the problem. In 2009 the National Academy published a report called “Strengthening Forensic Science in the UnitedStates: A Path Forward” which was a comprehensive review of all the forensic sciences,including bitemark analysis. The findings from the report were the same as Dr. Bowers had been teaching and writing about for years. It was not until after the report was published did the dental forensic specialty group begin to acknowledge the need for change. Fortunately this process has begun and positive changes are currently being
made. This handbook relates and discusses all the problems identified by the National Academy of Science.

In this book Dr. Bowers has partnered himself with many of the worlds foremost forensic scientists and dental experts. This handbook offers the latest information available to the forensic community and beyond. It will function to advance the profession and allow justice to be served for all.

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