Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on the junk science of scent identification

The Innocence Project of Texas has released its report on the junk science behind scent identification. The report castigates Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett and his claims about his dogs' ability to identify suspects by scent.

The report notes that Fort Bend County defense attorney Derek Smith has put together a yet-to-be published paper for Texas defense attorneys to use to attack scent identification.

In a report issued earlier this year, the National Research Council stated that:

There are two very important questions that should underlie the law's admission of and reliance upon forensic evidence in criminal trials: (1) the extent to which a particular forensic discipline is founded on a reliable scientific methodology that gives it the capacity to accurately analyze evidence and report findings and (2) the extent to which practitioners in a particular forensic discipline rely on human interpretation that could be tainted by error, the threat of bias, or the absence of sound operational procedures and robust performance standards... [I]t matters a great deal whether an expert is qualified to testify about forensic evidence and whether the evidence is sufficiently reliable to merit a fact-finder's reliance on the truth that it purports to support. -- "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward"

In one trial, Mr. Piket claimed to have a B.S. in Chemistry from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Houston. In another case he claimed he had a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of South Alabama. All these claims were false.

Mr. Pikett has testified that he did not think it important to obtain formal training, that he doesn't follow scientific protocols when conducting scent lineups and that he discounts scientific studies in the field.

There is no telling how many lives Mr. Pikett has ruined with his pseudo-scientific bullshit.

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