A man convicted twice in a notorious 1990s rape and murder in New Jersey has lost his bid for a new trial based on bite-mark evidence.
Steven Fortin was convicted in the 1994 attack along Route 1 in Avenel, which was featured on the cable TV series “Forensic Files." He also pleaded guilty to an attack on a Maine state trooper several months later that officials said exhibited similar characteristics to the New Jersey attack.
Fortin's first conviction was overturned due to evidentiary issues surrounding testimony by an expert witness who spoke about similarities between the two attacks.
Fortin was on death row before New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007 and his sentence was changed to life without parole.
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In his appeal, he argued that studies in recent years have cast doubt on the reliability of bite-mark evidence and led to the reversal of more than two dozen convictions.
In Tuesday’s appellate ruling, the three-judge panel said jurors at Fortin's second trial heard testimony about the unreliability of bite-mark evidence, and noted that no state has ruled it is inadmissible in criminal trials. DNA evidence also tied Fortin to the scene of the New Jersey attack and helped to convict him, the panel said.