Police across the country frequently rely on scent-sniffing dogs and a device called a scent transfer unit to track alleged perpetrators. In a recent DNA exoneration in California, a bloodhound led police to the home of James Ochoa, relying on a scent from a baseball cap in a car. Ochoa eventually pled guilty to a carjacking he did not commit. He served 10 months in prison before DNA test results on the hat matched another man, who confessed to committing the carjacking.
Now, another California man is awaiting his second trial on arson charges. In his first trial, which resulted in a hung jury, prosecutors relied on evidence of a bloodhound that placed him at the scene of 21 fires. The dog handler said her dog could identify scents after eight years and even find a scent on a bottle that had been thrown into a fire and turned into molten glass. Critics were less convinced:
"If you got nothing else but a dog, you've got a bad case," said (Gary) Gibson, … an attorney with the San Diego County public defender's office. "I'm terrified for the American justice system when three people voted guilty when the only evidence came from a dog."
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. (LA Times, 3/9/2007, Payment required for full article)