Thursday, April 19, 2012

'As good as DNA'? Court of Criminal Appeals considers dog-scent lineups

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday heard arguments in a murder case where the conviction hinged primarily on a "scent lineup" conducted by former Fort Bend Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett, a rare forensic technique first developed in Communist countries that has been derided as junk science. The CCA already overturned the conviction of the defendant's father in a case arising out of the same episode. Here's the initial coverage:
From the Statesman:
In the years since [Megan Winfrey's conviction], a number of scientists and dog experts have denounced Pikett's methods as unethical, unprofessional and biased in favor of law enforcement.

At least one member of the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. "Personally, I think the dog-scent stuff, particularly as done by Pikett, is junk science and should never have come into court," Judge Cheryl Johnson said.
Absurdly, prosecutors told jurors at trial that the dog-scent lineup was "as good as DNA." Winfrey's attorney, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, told the CCA that "The problem with bad science masquerading as science is it results in attaching a significance to unremarkable events." San Jacinto County prosecutors told the court that although the case was circumstantial and "parts of it are weak," they should uphold the conviction anyway. (I know, you're shocked.)

See also earlier coverage from the Tribune, and these prior, related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

It seems to me this prosecutor committed an ethical violation by presenting a completely frivolous argument to the court.

GalvestonLawyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GalvestonLawyer said...

We defended a triple homicide a couple of years ago in which Pikett made a glorious appearance with his magic dogs. The murders had occurred nearly 17 years before and all the physical evidence had been stored in trash bags in converted closet in the PD's office for at least 10 years. After Lisa Tanner from the AG's office got appointed as the DA's hired gun, she pulled this bullshit on us. I'd just read an article about Pikett and the real concerns his schtick was causing in criminal defense and judicial circles. Of course, when we got Pikett's report--it was a match! Then we got the video. I don't know how any intelligent, educated human can watch him as he does his 'work' and not call bullshit every time. He had Lisa Tanner snake-charmed into believing that cartoonish shit about his dogs. We might as well have witch doctors using chicken bones to solve crime--I'd have more faith in that than in Pikett--who I am convinced knows that he's full pf shit. We also hired the guy from Holland or Netherlands that is THE EXPERT on dog-scent forensics (when he figured out it was another Pikett case--he volunteered to fly to Texas and testify at his own expense). (I was so disappointed when our client took a plea--I could not wait to finally shove the 'real' science of dog-scent investigation up Pikett's ass--he had never had to face our expert in court before. It's time for the CCA to finally bury that dead and discredited 'method' of investigation. Send those dogs home.

4/24/2012 06:50:00 PM