Sunday, April 11, 2010
Court could challenge efficacy of the bloodhound "sniff test"
Now-retired Deputy Keith Pikett, with bloodhounds James Bond, left, and Clue, has taught his dogs to do 'scent lineups,' where they try to match crime scene evidence with the smell of a suspect.
photo by Deborah Cannon/2007 AMERICAN-STATESMAN
By Chuck Lindell
No physical evidence tied Richard Winfrey Sr. to a brutal 2004 murder in East Texas, and no witnesses placed him at the crime scene.
Even so, Winfrey is serving 75 years in prison largely because three bloodhounds, trained by their self-taught handler to sniff out criminals, indicated that they smelled his scent on gauze pads that had been rubbed on the victim's clothing three years earlier and preserved in Ziploc bags.
Defense lawyers claim Winfrey was the victim of an unreliable, unscientific process known as "scent lineups," where dogs sniff crime scene evidence and try to match it to smells obtained from suspects or from items they have touched.