The Trib article also brings news of civil proceedings by the Winfreys against Keith Pikett: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit recently agreed to allow Richard Winfrey Jr. to proceed in a lawsuit against the dog handler and two other officers involved in the murder investigation."Mr. Winfrey and his daughter, Megan, and his son, Richard Jr., were charged with murdering Murray Burr, a janitor at Coldspring High School in Coldspring, during a robbery in 2004. Richard Winfrey Sr. and Ms. Winfrey were convicted.The charges against the Winfreys were based primarily on evidence gathered during a dog-scent lineup conducted by a self-trained police deputy whose work in the Winfrey case — and others — was found unreliable by experts. They said the deputy had cued the dogs to “alert” for the suspects during the scent lineups.Richard Winfrey Jr. was acquitted by a jury in 13 minutes, after his lawyers had presented evidence that the dog-scent lineup was a sham.In April, Ms. Winfrey’s lawyers told the criminal appeals court that the dog-scent evidence used to secure her conviction and life sentence was “bad science masquerading as science.” In her father’s case, the same court found that the dog-scent evidence alone was not sufficient for his conviction. They issued an acquittal in 2010, and he was released.But Ms. Winfrey remains in the Murray prison unit for women in Gatesville.
Notably, there has never been a comprehensive vetting of the cases Deputy Pikett worked with his dogs the way, for example, old arson cases involving junk science are being vetted in the wake of the Forensic Science Commission's report on the Todd Willingham case. Are there others before the Winfreys who went to prison framed by Pikett's dogs? In how many cases were Pikett's dog-scent lineup the primary inculpatory evidence against a defendant? Nobody knows, but Texas appellate courts had been allowing his testimony for years until Megan's father's case finally put a stop to it.
Grits fails to understand why the Court of Criminal Appeals has taken so long to decide Megan Winfrey's case, where prosecutors told the jury the dog-scent lineup was "as good as DNA," but I wish they'd hop to it. Their landmark ruling in her father's related case is now more than two years old, and if for some reason they're going to flip flop and say the same evidence is sufficient to keep the daughter in prison, the least they can do is publicly explain why. Otherwise, it's time for Megan to go home and for the broader debate to begin about how to assess possible false convictions from the same junk science used in prior cases.
See earlier coverage of the case from the Tribune and the Austin Statesman.
See also prior, related Grits posts:
- 'As good as DNA'? Court of Criminal Appeals consider dog-scent lineups
- Woman still jailed on dog-scent evidence granted high court hearing
- Appellate court upholds exclusion of dog-scent lineup evidence
- Time to ban junk science from the courtroom
- Dog scent lineups discredited at Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
- Texas needs process to vet cases based on forensic hokum
- Deputy famous for dog-scent lineups to retire
- More detail on scent-lineup case headed to Texas CCA
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will hear arguments on dog scent evidence
- More litigation, disapprobation for dog-scent lineups
- 'Scent lineup' evidence may be used in Anthony Graves capital case
- CNN profiles cop wrongly accused by dog scent lineup
- 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
- Texas Innocence Project report discredits dog 'scent lineups'