The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has thrown out the murder conviction of an East Texas man, ruling that results from controversial dog “scent lineups” are not reliable enough to stand on their own in court, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The decision means that Richard Winfrey Sr. , 56, now serving a 75-year prison sentence, will go free. No physical evidence tied Winfrey to the 2004 murder of a neighbor in Coldspring. But three bloodhounds owned and trained by Keith Pikett , a now-retired Fort Bend County deputy sheriff, indicated that they smelled Winfrey’s scent on a gauze pad that had been wiped on the victim’s clothes and stored in a plastic bag for three years.
A San Jacinto County jury convicted Winfrey of murder based almost entirely on the lineup results, according to Wednesday’s decision. On appeal, Winfrey’s lawyers claimed the scent lineups were unreliable and quoted scientists and dog experts who found Pikett’s methods to be unethical, unprofessional and biased in favor of law enforcement. Wednesday’s decision means prosecutors can continue to introduce scent lineups at trial, but only if the conclusions are supported by other, corroborating evidence. The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to delve into the bigger question of whether dog scent lineups should be admissible in court at all.