Friday, July 03, 2009

3 false convictions linked to dog-based scent lineups in Florida

Since I first wrote about "scent lineups" conducted by dogs, this questionable forensic tactic has garnered a lot more attention with another civil suit filed in Victoria and critical national news coverage (in USA Today), all focused on Texas' chief proponent and practitioner of scent lineups, Fort Bend Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett.

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.

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?
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?


Don Dickson said...

Love the name of the dog.

Anonymous said...

d.w. says...
how can juries be so gullible? are people really that stupid?

Vox Populi said...

Baving passed through the fedearal court by happenstance one day trying to observe a jury trial for a class I noted that the jury to convict a major MAJOR drug dealer were all bikers. How do I know that/ They were wearing their lil jury taga AND their colors. Complete with sleeveless vests covered in biker tats the whole nine yards. If only I'd had a camera (oopps not allowed to bring that OR your phone into federal court so there's no chance of that evidence getting out. So, if they're stacking kangaroo courts in fed imagine what they're getting away with in county or circuit. They're giving up the dog but not the fact that their crooked, masonic clerks are able to stack a jury.
My initial thought was to laugh thinking that guy would take a walk. NO !! He got DECADES AND DECADES in prison. Over forty or life, I can't remember. They wanted his drug route and connections. The bikers took it over.
Get the connection?
They're running the place behind the scenes. They're on the police and sheriff here and they have their kids, wives and other family members in the court system.