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article imageScent Line-ups: The Newest Stink in Town

By M Dee Dubroff     Jul 1, 2009 in Crime
Bordering on forensic voodoo comes this new idea to sniff out suspects in a procedure known as a scent lineup. Depending on a bloodhound’s trusty nose the question remains whether or not it is reliable every time. Read on and…hold your nose.
According to news sources, there are four aspects to any effective scent-lineup. They are:
• Dog smells sample from crime scene.
• Participants of the same race and sex stand together.
• Each participant walks 150 feet at a different angle to leave 25 feet between them.
• Dog follows scent trail to one person in lineup. If scent does not match, dog will not trail.
There is no disputing the accuracy of a bloodhound’s nose when following a blood trail, but the fact that some evidence can be rigged casts some doubts on the accuracy of a scent line-up as a forensic tool when it comes to identifying suspects.
Two federal lawsuits were recently filed in Victoria, Texas alleging that that Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett and his team of hounds: James Bond, Quincy and Clue, called attention to the wrong suspect in a recent “scent lineup.” In both cases, the suspects were subsequently cleared.
In the words of Randall Morse, Pikett’s attorney:
“The legal challenges are a first for us. The hounds have worked about 2,000 cases across the country, including the search for Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.”
The National Police Bloodhound Association warns that scent lineups be used with caution. According to the Innocence Project, since 2004, two men in Florida and one in California have been freed after DNA evidence exonerated them. They had been convicted, in part, on the use of scent evidence. Pikett's dogs weren't involved in those cases.
In the most recent Pikett case, defense attorney Rex Easley says Calvin Miller, 42, was cleared last month after a three-month jail stint as a suspect in robbery and sexual assault cases. Pickett’s dogs had singled him out in a scent lineup in Yoakum, Texas. Miller was later released after both victims were unable to identify him in a traditional lineup, and DNA evidence excluded him as a suspect.
Easley refers to scent line-ups as “junk science.”
Well, maybe they are or at best, at least not as accurate as one might expect.
How do you smell today and…
What do YOU think about this?
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