Now thanks to Radley Balko I discover there's a similar case in Florida that's already resulted in three exonerations and could lead to dozens more. Writes columnist Scott Maxwell in the Orlando Sentinel ("How many more are innocent," June 14):
[Defendant Bill] Dillon, after all, was not alone in his wrongful imprisonment. At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.The same questions could be asked of Texas officials vis a vis Deputy Pikett's dogs, whose olfactory infallibility was disproven recently by DNA testing in a Victoria murder case. If just three who were falsely accused by the Florida dog handler collectively spent more than 50 years in prison, how many in Texas are similarly situated because our courts allow the untested and unproven use of dogs as de facto witnesses?
Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.
Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.
If it sounds hard to believe, there's a good reason.
After providing prosecutors with testimony for years, Preston was finally discredited by a judge who had the sense to do what others had not: test the dog for himself.
But not until after Preston and his dog had appeared in dozens of cases.
We know that at least three of those cases were overturned — after the defendants collectively spent more than a half-century in prison.
The question now is: How many others suffered the same injustice?
An even better question is: Do prosecutors, the attorney general or even the governor care enough to find out?