Identification by dog sniff….

Excuse my incredulity but I couldn’t believe it when I read this article.  I am amazed that this could ever be used as part of a court case – does it meet either the Daubert or Frye tests (I admit I don’t know which, if either, applies in Texas but all the same, there must be some similar standard to which findings need to reach before being presented as part of a court case)?  Anyway, read and see what you think.

“Texas group asks DAs to stop using scent IDs

21 September 2009, chron.com/AP Texas News

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A group that works to free the wrongly convicted on Monday asked Texas prosecutors and the state commission that investigates forensic misconduct allegations to ban the use of scent identification lineups, saying the technique is junk science that has led to several false arrests.

“Now is the time for the state of Texas … to step up and do the right thing to prohibit the use of not only dog scent lineups but to ensure there is a scientific basis for any forensic technique used in court,” said Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas.

During a news conference, the group released a report claiming there have been at least four cases in which five innocent people were arrested following scent ID lineups conducted by a Fort Bend sheriff’s deputy, Keith Pikett, who trains dogs. Two of the individuals were jailed for capital murder before the charges were dropped.

In the scent identification lineups in question, dogs trained by Pikett determine if a suspect’s smell matches the smell of crime scene evidence.  Proponents of scent lineups argue each person has a unique smell and dogs can differentiate between subtle differences.  Pikett’s attorney, Randall Morse, has said his client has done nothing wrong and is considered a well-respected law enforcement official who has consulted for the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies.  Pikett is being sued by two people who claim they were wrongly implicated in crimes because of his scent lineups.

“We had five innocent people sent to jail. Everyone should be concerned that innocent people are being locked up,” said Stanley Schneider, president of Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.  Curvis Bickham said he was one of the people falsely accused in dog scent lineups done by Pikett.  In late 2007, Bickham and another man were charged with capital murder for a triple homicide in Houston after he was placed at the home where the bodies were found by one of Pikett’s dogs. Months later, both men were released and charges against them were dropped.  “There’s no way I could have been at this scene. I never stepped a foot on that property. To be charged with this crime is wrong,” said a tearful Bickham.  Bickham, 49, said his wrongful arrest resulted in him losing his home and in losing business at his barbecue stand.

Blackburn called on the Texas Forensic Science Commission to conduct a full investigation into the use of scent lineups and asked prosecutors around the state to stop using them in criminal cases.  Chairman Sam Bassett said someone would need to first file a complaint with the commission before it could look at the issue and determine if there was negligence or misconduct in the application of forensic science. The commission was created by the Legislature in 2005.  A spokesperson for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association could not immediately be reached for comment.”

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