One new fact-bite in the report concerns the use of scent lineups in communist Cuba, where "secret police have amassed thousands of bottles of scents taken from anti-Castro slogans painted on walls and other such 'crime scenes' and are using them as 'proof' against dissidents." A footnote pointed out this recent Miami Herald story on the use of scent lineups in Cuba, where we get a glimpse of the totalitarian origins of this bizarre practice:
the use of 'criminal odorology' started in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, was developed by the former East Germany and in 1972 was established around Communist-ruled Europe.(See an academic paper in Spanish on the use of scent lineups in Cuba.)
After East Germany collapsed in 1989, West German investigators found a warehouse packed with tens of thousands of sealed jars containing bits of cloth impregnated with the odors of criminals and dissidents -- used to identify or track them.
But the meat of the report related to Deputy Keith Pikett, who along with his wife undertook training pet bloodhounds as police dogs in the early '90s "on their own without using any known or established program."
The most extensive scientific testing of "scent lineup" methods has occurred in the Netherlands says IPOT, citing this 2002 New York Times story. They use elaborate methodologies which include controls that Deputy Pikett has not adopted.
When he gets into the courtroom, Pikett has sometimes misrepresented his credentials. In one of his first big cases he "testified that he had a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Houston. This was a lie: Pikett has never received degrees from either institution." In the case where appellate courts formally affirmed his status as an expert witness, he also misrepresented himself as having a masters degree in Chemistry. Defense attorneys in that case did not challenge his testimony.
Pikett asserts outlandish success rates for his dogs, claiming one of them had only made one error in 2,831 lineups. "According to the research done by the Dutch police and other experts in the field, this is absurd. Even using rigorous training methods, experts believe that the best dogs worked in perfectly controlled conditions can only be right approximately 85% of the time."
According to the report, "Pikett has also claimed that his dogs can identify scents more than a decade old and that they can follow scents left by cars - claims which have been criticized by experts in this field."
The report quotes police dog experts from the around the country (including from the National Police Bloodhound Association) and from the UK harshly criticizing Pikett's methods. One called him an "unprofessional charlatan." Another concluded Pikett had "intentionally misspoke concerning the capabilities and expertise of his scent discriminating bloodhounds in given situations."
Finally, the report calls on police agencies and prosecutors to immediately stop using scent lineups by Deputy Pikett, and for the Attorney General to "conduct a full and complete investigation into every case in which scent lineups have been used, and to aid in the release of any person convicted on such testimony."
The recommendation about the AG vetting these old cases is particularly salient. Who knows how many false convictions have been obtained using this type of garbage evidence?
See prior, related Grits coverage:
- A 'scent lineup'? Rover in the witness box
- DNA exoneration indicts Rover in the witness box
- 'Scent lineups stink to critics'
- 3 false convictions relied on dog-based scent lineups in Florida
- Scent lineups by dogs don't pass the smell test
- Texas Innocence Project vetting dog scent lineup cases
- Evidence mounts against dog handler, scent lineups