Thursday, October 22, 2009

Justice Smells

"Dogs have occupied a special place in law enforcement for decades thanks to their heightened sense of smell, and their role has only grown in recent years because of use in explosives detection and the newly popular practice of 'scent lineups'. ... The Innocence Project of Texas agrees. A group that works on behalf of the wrongly accused, the project issued a scathing report last week on both [Keith] Pikett and the practice of getting courtroom evidence from scent lineups, in which a specially trained dog matches a suspect's scent to items from a crime scene. ... It's the next step that bothers them--the eagerness of police to use scent results as the basis of a criminal charge and prosecutors to accept them as evicdence. It has called on the state Attorney General's Office to investigate other cases in which Pikett's dogs were crucial to getting a conviction. ... Other dog trainers have attracted scrutiny. In Florida, John Preston occupied a niche similar to Pikett's in the 1980s. Three men he helped imprison have since been released after other evidence showed the convictions were wrong. ... As publicity spread about Pikett's work, more and more police agencies and prosecutors began to use him. He has said he has no idea of how many cases his dogs have been involved in, but it numbers in the thousands. He also has testified that his dogs have almost never been wrong. One of them, 'Clue,' erred once in 1,659, he has testified, while 'James Bond' made one mistake in 2,266 tries. ... Three experts hired by the Innocence Project criticized Pikett's work. ... 'This is the most primitive evidential police procedure I have ever witnessed,' [Bob] Coote stated. 'If it was not for the fact that this is a serious matter, I could have been watching a comedy.' ... 'In some counties, police are abandoning nornmal police work in favor of Pikett and his dogs,' [Curvis] Blackburn said. 'We believe it is becoming ... a widespread and pervasive problem'," my emphasis, Mike Tolson at the Houston Chronicle, 27 September 2009.

How do you cross-examine a dog? It's the Vincent Broderick Syndrome, i.e., cops lack the brains to investigate anything. So they have 'experts" testify as "oath helpers" of old. Dogs testify? Why not? Most DAs today would accept goat entrail examinations as evidence. I've been a juror four times. I did not see what you see on "CSI New York". Pikett's statistics are amazing. Did anyone reproduce them in a "double-blind" experiment? Will police consult Ed McMahon's hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar next? How did Pikett determine Clue's and Jame Bond's error rates?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's just lazy.

Like school cafeteria workers thawing and heating food prepared by a multinational conglomerate.

That is no more "cooking" than doing "law enforcement".

Maybe we should rename these activties... "food reheaters" and "scent lineup organizers"?