Three men have filed a federal lawsuit against Fort Bend Deputy Keith Pikett and his use of “evidence” gathered by scent dogs, which they say led to them being falsely accused of and imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit.
The men — Cedric Johnson, Curvis Bickham and Ronald Curtis — ask for compensatory and punitive damages for months spent in jail awaiting trial for crimes they did not commit. Charges against them eventually were dropped. Also named in the lawsuit are Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright and the Houston Police Department.
Jeff Blackburn, attorney for the three, is leading a campaign against the use of dog scent evidence to charge people with crimes. Pikett and his dogs have been employed by prosecutors and police in thousands of Texas cases, in some instances providing the primary link between a suspect and a crime.
Blackburn is general counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, which in September issued a scathing report on the use of dog scent evidence, calling it tantamount to junk science. The project works on behalf of wrongly accused people.
You can read that report here (PDF). I’ve blogged about this before here and here, and of course Grits is a comprehensive resource. It occurs to me that this is the sort of thing that the Texas Forensic Science Commission ought to be looking into, to help establish a statewide standard, or at least a set of recommendations and best practices, for local law enforcement agencies to go by. Too bad Governor Perry’s meddling in the affairs of the Commission over the Cameron Todd Willingham case has screwed the pooch on this, so to speak. Maybe some day, when we have a Governor that puts the best interests of Texas ahead of his own, that can happen.