“Obviously, I’m learning more about bite marks than I ever knew,” remarked Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill on Monday, March 3. It was the third day of an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Eric Frimpong, a former UCSB soccer player found guilty of rape, will face sentencing for the crime or be retried.
Hill’s words echoed the sentiments of many in the courtroom, as almost the entire proceeding thus far has centered on testimony from three dentists analyzing a bite mark on the face of the 19-year-old rape victim. During the trial in December, prosecutor Mary Barron called Dr. Norman Sperber to testify that Frimpong could “not be ruled out” as having caused the bite mark on the woman’s face. Sperber said that the victim’s lover, Benjamin Randall, could be ruled out, based on moldings taken of both men’s mouths. Frimpong’s attorney, Bob Sanger, has contended that his expert dentist, Dr. Charles Bowers, was unable to testify during the trial, and if he had, he would have swayed the jury toward a not-guilty verdict. Hill said at the beginning of the evidentiary hearing Thursday that if evidence presented in the hearing indicated Frimpong didn’t get a fair shake, he would order a retrial.
The victim, also a UCSB student, contends that she met Frimpong at a Del Playa Drive party in Isla Vista in February 2006, and after returning to his house to play beer pong, the two went down to the adjacent beach, where he became aggressive and raped her. While the defense doesn’t deny that the two met, Frimpong and his supporters contend he was turned off by the fact that she smoked and had a tongue ring. When he denied her advances, she reached her hand into his pants and grabbed his crotch, thus explaining the fact that her DNA was found on his scrotum. Sanger has suggested that it was Randall, not Frimpong, who committed the crime. Randall’s semen was found in the woman’s panties that night. While Randall admitted to hanging out with the victim at a party earlier in the night, he says he was at his apartment around the time the incident happened in the early morning.
Monday, the testimony of two additional dentists conflicted with that of Bowers, who told the judge that the bite marks were much more consistent with Randall’s teeth than Frimpong’s, based on the arc of the bite as well as the alignment of the teeth. He concluded that the bite mark on the woman’s face was made with the assailant’s lower teeth close to the woman’s mouth, while the upper teeth caused bruising closer to her jaw. Dr. Duane Spencer and Dr. Gregory Golden both concluded the exact opposite. Golden said that there was more than enough information to determine the orientation of the bite; he said that he showed photos to several of his dentist friends, and all of them came to the same conclusion. Pointing out the gaps in Frimpong’s teeth, and the difference between the arc of Frimpong’s teeth and the arc of Randall’s teeth, Golden concluded that “Mr. Frimpong’s dental signature is very similar to the bite on the face.”
Previously, Bowers had used the pattern of gaps to convincingly argue that Randall’s teeth could have very well caused the bite whereas Frimpong’s teeth, especially his two front teeth, didn’t appear to match the bite. Frimpong’s teeth, Bower explained, are larger than the bruising on the face.
The evidentiary hearing will continue Friday, March 7, at 10 a.m. in Department 2.