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Daily Archives: April 27, 2010

Dental X-Rays and Age Determination

I got a heads up about this interesting case from my friend Julie Kramer.

It seems that Mahdi Ali will have to visit the dentist and get some x-rays done. Not because he has any dental problems but because he is accused of killing three men during a Minneapolis convenience store robbery this past January. He and his friend Ahmed Ali apparently entered the Seward Market one evening, guns in hand. Mahdi forced the two men there to lie on the floor, all this taking place in front of the store’s security camera. While his friend was near the rear of the store attempting to rob someone else, Mahdi shot the two men and a third man who walked in the door. He is now charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

His defense attorneys claim that Mahdi Ali was only 15 at the time of the shooting and not 16 as was previously documented. They state that he was born on August 25, 1995 in Kenya and that this would’ve made him only 15 at the time to the shootings. This is critical since if he were only 15 he will be tried as a juvenile, but if he was 16, he will be tried as an adult and if convicted will be subject to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Big stakes.

So Mahdi will trot off to the dentist for dental x-rays to help determine his age. But there are a few problems with this. Yes both our deciduous (temporary or juvenile) teeth and our permanent teeth do tend to develop in a known and fairly predictable pattern. Our various types of teeth appear at certain ages and are lost as permanent teeth develop on their own timeline. Taking dental x-rays in this teenage group can often help determine the age of the person. Here’s the rub — it’s not all that accurate.

If you just look at the age at which the eruption of wisdom teeth occurs, it can vary by as much as five years. Some people get their wisdom teeth early and others see them late. We’re all different. In this case we’re looking at only a few months that would straddle Mahdi’s 15th and 16th years. It will be interesting to see what the experts say in this case and how accurate they will attempt to be. The bottom line is that determining whether someone’s age is 15 years and 10 months versus 16 years and three months is almost impossible. Stay tuned.

 
 

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