Friday, August 14, 2009

Evidence mounts against dog handler, scent lineups

Depositions in civil litigation against Fort Bend County dog handler Keith Pikett and his use of "scent lineups" have revealed that the Deputy apparently misled the court in the past about his academic credentials, falsely claiming in a capital murder trial that he had a degree in chemistry from Syracuse. It turns out he instead has a "master's of sport science in sport coaching from the United States Sports Academy." "He appears to testify to things that aren't true," said the attorney for a police officer falsely accused by Pikett's dogs.

Further, reports the Victoria Advocate ("Evidence mounts against dog handler named in lawsuits," Aug 12), a former Harris County prosecutor has come forward to accuse Pikett's dogs of picking the wrong suspect in a scent lineup and Houston police officers of covering up for the error:

News stories questioning Pikett's methods prompted former Harris County assistant district attorney Victor Wisner to call Easley. Wisner wrote an affidavit accusing Pikett and his hounds of picking out the wrong man in a lineup.

Wisner and Houston Police officers from the Westside Task Force were working on a case against a man accused in a series of burglaries. After the charges were filed, Wisner found out investigators from Houston's central burglary and theft had filed charges against another man. Those charges were based on a scent lineup by Pikett, Wisner wrote in his affidavit.

"The scent evidence was ludicrous and incriminated a person who was unrelated to the offenses," Wisner wrote. Wisner wrote an e-mail to all the prosecutors in the office, warning them that Pikett's evidence was unreliable.

"I also know the B&T officers he assisted had attempted to cover the incident up to protect Pikett's reputation," Wisner wrote.

Wisner did not want to elaborate on his cover-up allegations.

"I stand by everything in the affidavit," Wisner said.

The Houston Police Department did use Pikett in some cases, said Kese Smith, with the department of public affairs. He would not comment on the allegations in Wisner's affidavit.

Wisner's testimony seems like a significant breakthrough and it will be interesting to learn the details of the "coverup" allegation as the case go forward.

In addition to the two incidents already under litigation, my former employers at the Innocence Project of Texas are vetting dozens of other old cases involving Pikett's dogs to identify potentially innocent people who've been convicted based on this junk forensic method. Pikett is the only officer in Texas to perform "scent lineups" and claims his dogs have provided evidence in more than 2,000 cases.

See prior, related Grits coverage:

13 comments:

Charles said...

"He appears to testify to things that aren't true." Is that not perjury?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not till a jury says it is, but it's particularly troublesome that he was allegedly inflating his credentials in a friggin' capital murder trial. Hopefully there was also other evidence identifying the (now dead) defendant.

Lynn said...

Sheesh. Do you know if he is involved in any pending cases?

Natalie R said...

He's involved in several pending cases (including capital murder cases). More to come in the official Innocence Project of Texas (IPOT) report scheduled for release in the next few weeks. We'll make sure Grits gets a copy :-) Stay tuned....

Anonymous said...

Once again, LE and prosecutor tactics don't pass the smell test.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that current Harris County ADA's don't hav ethe same courage Wisner does. All you have to do is go over and read Murray Newman's blog and they're all over the place advocating the same old tactics just to get a conviction.

That whole office needs to be cleaned out.

Anonymous said...

Another example of why "Texas Justice" is so infamous across the nation.

Boyness said...

The dogs are a JOKE and there handlers even worse. I was stopped by DPS a few years ago on 59 headed out of Houston. They asked to search my van and I told them no. The trooper asked, threatened, danced, whatever and I told him NO for the 10th time.

He called a "K-9" unit from some constables office in Montgomery County so here they come with this dog. They walk the dog around the van and it doesn't do anything...NOTHING! When it is clear there is nothing for the dog to alert on, the constable has the dog jump up on the rear bumper and yells out "that's an alert, there something in there."

DPS then informed me that the dog had alerted which was a TEXAS LIE and they were going to search the van.

I sat down in the grass while these idiots, two constables and the DPS moron who looked like Lurch from the Addams Family took everything out of the van.

20 minutes later or so, they started putting everything back because, guess what? THERE WAS NOTHING THERE!

THE CONSTABLES LIED, THE DOG NEVER ALERTED AND THE DPS TROOPER WAS PROBABLY TOO DUMB (SERIOUSLY) TO EVEN KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON.

No apology...no nothing just a "your clear to go." Oh jeez! Thanks for violating my rights you lying bastards!

I have no use for DPS/Constable Nazis and there NO-sniffing dogs.

Anonymous said...

Hay boyness Do you know what the dog suppose to do when it smells something?

Ray

Boyness said...

Yeah, I do. They either sit down or they paw and try to get to the scent. There was no scent. This dog did not alert. They MADE it alert by playing with it. They walked around the van 3 times T H R E E. The dog didn't do anything. It didn't paw and it didn't sit. When they bounced the toy ball on the bumper, the dog jumped up and that's when the facade was on!!

Boyness said...

One more point I need to make. They didn't find anything because there was nothing there. They emptied this van and then had to put everything back.

What could this dog have alerted on? The answer is simple, it didn't alert on anything, they made it up.

I am curious as to whether these false alerts are documented. They should fire a dog that has so many false alerts and fire the handler to.

Anonymous said...

I've seen scent dogs do more then just set or paw.

Scott said...

The officer should lose his TCLEOSE commission, return his take home patrol car to the City of Victoria and take Fido home as his pet. Some of the officers who are assigned canines think their animal is as intelligent as Spock's Tricorder on Star Trek.

I am particulary amused that the reported Chemistry degree is actually a degree in Sports Management.

The officer's reputation is tarnished and he can no longer represent any honest statements in a court of law.

He should add "You want fries with that" to his vocabulary.