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In recent years the validity of once widely accepted forensic science techniques, such as microscopic hair analysis and bite-mark evidence, has been questioned, largely debunked or even dismissed as “junk science.”

A bill now in the Virginia General Assembly, similar to laws enacted in Texas and California, seeks to give people wrongfully convicted long ago on what has since been found to be faulty forensic science an avenue to challenge their convictions in court.

The case of Keith Allen Harward, exonerated in 2016 of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News, illustrates the issue, say advocates. Harward was convicted on the testimony of forensic dentists, odonotologists, who said his teeth matched those found in bite marks left by the assailant on the rape victim’s legs.

The experts’ testimony was so persuasive that in upholding Harward’s convictions in 1988, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that the dental evidence — now known to be completely erroneous — was strong enough to alone support his convictions.

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