Scent Lineups and Unvalidated Science


Dog scent evidence has contributed to at least three wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing, and two new lawsuits in Texas allege that three police dogs working with the Fort Bend County’s Sheriff’s Department implicated innocent people in failed “scent lineups.” Both men have been cleared, but the controversy over the validity of dog scent evidence continues. A new USA Today article examines the Texas lawsuits and the controversy over whether dog scent evidence should be allowed in criminal trials:

The legal challenges are "a first for us," says Randall Morse, an assistant county attorney who is representing (dog handler Keith) Pikett. He says the hounds have worked about 2,000 cases across the country, including the search for Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.

Defense lawyers say the (scent lineup) technique smacks of forensic voodoo and casts further suspicion on the broader use of scent dog evidence.

"It's a fraud on so many levels," says Jeffrey Weiner, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Read the full story here

. (USA Today, 06/30/09)

Unvalidated forensic science such as dog scent evidence has been involved in about half of the 240 wrongful convictions overturned to date in the United States. A National Academy of Sciences report released this year calls for the creation of a federal agency to support and oversee forensics to prevent wrongful convictions and ensure public safety .

The Innocence Project supports the creation of a federal Office of Forensic Science Improvement and Support

and thousands of people have joined the campaign by signing the Just Science Coalition’s petition calling for federal forensic oversight.

Add your name now


Read more about the three men who were wrongfully convicted based in part on dog scent evidence and then exonerated by DNA testing:

Wilton Dedge

, Florida

William Dillon

, Florida

James Ochoa

, California

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