Sunday, June 02, 2013

How many cases besides Winfrey hinged on bogus dog-scent lineups? Forensic commission should check

In an article also appearing in the New York Times, the Texas Tribune's Brandi Grissom has a feature today about Megan Winfrey, whose conviction was finally overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in February because of junk science (dog-scent lineups) used to convict her. Winfrey is not eligible for compensation, Grissom pointed out, because her case was not overturned on formal "actual innocence" grounds, so her only recourse after spending seven years in prison based on the junkiest of junk science would be to sue. Her brother, who was charged and acquitted in the same case but in the meantime spent 2.5 years in jail, has already done so.

If Governor Perry signs SB 1238 expanding the jurisdiction of the Forensic Science Commission to take up investigations for "educational purposes," IMO these old scent lineup cases deserve a closer review by that body. Nobody knows for sure in how many nor in which cases Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett performed these bogus rituals, nor how often he testified in court. The FSC would be performing a great mitzvah by investigating once and for all just how deep that rabbit hole goes. Maybe it's just a few cases where Pikett provided the primary evidence; maybe it's dozens or hundreds. There's no way to know unless someone systematically investigates, which has never been done.

On the Winfrey case, see also the majority opinion by Judge Cathy Cochran overturning Winfrey's conviction and a dissent by Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, as well as prior Grits posts on the Winfrey case and dog-sniff lineups generally:


Anonymous said...

This may be inaccurate, but there may be one or more convictions out of Lee, Washington and/or Burleson Counties. They are all in the same judicial district.

Phillip Baker said...

Reading Keller's dissent, it seems hard facts are not required for this judge to convict. All it takes is the possibility that the defendant might have done the deed and that the various bits of circumstantial evidence could be read different ways. She stands "innocent until proven guilty" on its head. But this is Sharon Keller we're talking about here.

Anonymous said...

Remember that Sharon Keller is the judge who refused to leave her office open for a few minutes longer so a death penalty petition could be timely delivered. Keller, in my opinion, is no better than any other murderer.