07-12-2009, 11:04 AM #1Registered User
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- Aug 2003
Scent Evidence ... Reliable Evidence Or Junk Science?
"To divine Miller's connection, the investigator swabbed the suspect with a gauze pad. He took that pad and scent from the victim's sheets to Deputy Keith Pikett in Fort Bend County.
Pikett is the only dog handler in the state who performs scent identification lineups. Pikett's three bloodhounds indicated Miller's scent was on the sheets.
Miller spent 62 days in jail. Finally, he was cleared by DNA evidence and the victims' failure to identify him.
"It was just like my life was taken away from me," he said.
No laws or regulations govern scent lineups, but they're admissible in courts across the nation. Only tighter oversight can keep shoddy - and sometimes shady - scent IDs from becoming key evidence, a growing number of critics say.
"This is junk science. This isn't even science. This is just junk," said Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas. The group works to free the wrongfully convicted and began investigating Pikett recently."
"The best-run scent lineups can provide results as accurate as witness identification lineups, said Kenneth Furton, the chairman of the federally funded Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detector Guidelines. Furton is a chemistry and biochemistry professor at Florida International University. For a model, he points to the Netherlands, where lineups are closely regulated and happen in near-sterile rooms without human interaction.
But training for dogs in the United States is often left to lone handlers or agencies.
"There isn't really any requirement to adhere to any kind of best practice," Furton said. Lineups are not as widely used as other scent evidence - for example, drug sniffs - so the technique has glided under regulatory radars, he said.
The National Police Bloodhound Association quit endorsing the technique years ago, calling scent lineups unreliable.
"We don't even want to take a chance on that," said Doug Lowry, the group's president and a chief instructor."
I have long held alleged bowser evidence to be, at best, unreliable.It's not what a man knows that makes him a fool, it's what he does know that ain't so. .... Josh Billings
07-12-2009, 11:21 PM #2
I wouldn't convict someone based on testimony that a dog sniffed a gauze pad and identified him/her as the suspect. Too many chances for misunderstandings...The technique they used in the Casey Anthony case--now THAT I do buy into.
07-13-2009, 11:55 AM #3
I think that scent-tracking is a good tool for finding the missing. As far as evidence in a criminal trial, I wouldn't want my life in the hands (paws) of a dog. When there is no other evidence, it's certainly not a gaurenteed method. It's not like DNA, which imo, is not always reliable-as there may be a non-criminal reason someone's DNA may be on the deceased. DNA is at least proof that a suspect has been in contact with the victim.
I also like that they mentioned the conditions in which these dogs are expected to pick out suspects. Lot's of different scents that we aren't, as humans are aware of.
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