Fort Bend County, Tx., sheriff’s Deputy Keith Pikett uses four bloodhounds to link suspects to evidence found at crime scenes, says the Austin American-Statesman. Pikett’s technique, commonly known as a scent lineup, has been used for more than a century in Europe. Pikett may be the only person in Texas who conducts the lineups, but they are still used in many places around the country. Colorado County Attorney Ken Sparks said he thought the lineups were “junk science at first” but has since used them in murder, robbery, sexual assault and burglary cases. Critics say the lineups are unreliable because some of what the dog does depends on the handler’s movements. Others question the reliability and extent of the training of both the handlers and dogs.
Prosecutors rarely, if ever, use scent evidence alone in cases. The dogs just strengthen the state’s case. “The scent evidence puts the finishing touch on the state’s case,” Sparks said. “Like the whipped cream on a dessert.” Pikett says his dogs are accurate. “It works every time,” he says, noting that one of his dogs has taken part in 1,250 cases “and has been wrong twice.”