Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Many States, Dogs Pick "Guilty" from Police Lineups

According to JOHN SCHWARTZ of the New York Times, there is a man in Texas who has dogs whom he insists can pick guilty defendants out of lineups. If one of these dogs start barking at someone in a lineup, that person may be held over for trial and convicted mostly on the dog's say so.

HOUSTON — A dog’s sniff helped put Curvis Bickham in jail for eight months. Now that the case against him has been dropped, he wants to tell the world that the investigative technique that justified his arrest smells to high heaven.

Curvis Bickham was identified in a scent lineup and spent eight months in jail until another man confessed to the crime.

The police told Mr. Bickham they had tied him to a triple homicide through a dog-scent lineup, in which dogs choose a suspect’s smell out of a group. The dogs are exposed to the scent from items found at crime scene, and are then walked by a series of containers with samples swabbed from a suspect and from others not involved in the crime. If the dog finds a can with a matching scent, it signals — stiffening, barking or giving some other alert its handler recognizes.

The handler, Deputy Keith A. Pikett of the Fort Bend County, Tex., Sheriff’s Department, is “a charlatan,” said Rex Easley, a lawyer in Victoria, Tex., who represents a man falsely accused by the police of murdering a neighbor. Deputy Pikett, the lawyer said, “devised an unreliable dog trick to justify local police agencies’ suspicions” for producing search warrants and arrests. NYT
But the "dog evidence" is used to put put people in jail "in many states, including Alaska, Florida, New York and Texas, said Lawrence J. Myers, an associate professor of animal behavior at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine."

The more one reads about the (in) justice system of the USA, and learns how this system puts more people in jail than any other on the planet, the more one wonders if it's safe to live in the USA at all.

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