Saturday, July 21, 2012

DOJ/FBI review of thousands of hair and fiber cases. Texas should follow suit, (including Pikett dog scent cases), says Grits for Breakfast.

STORY: "Texas should conduct review of hair and fiber forensics comparable to feds," published by "Grits for Breakfast" on July 18, 2012.

GIST: "Texas, to its credit, in some ways pioneered the concept that old cases need to be comprehensively reviewed when forensic errors are found. The watershed moment perhaps was Dallas DA Craig Watkins partnering with my employers at the Innocence Project of Texas (IPOT) to review old DNA cases and recommend which ones deserved testing, a process that led to numerous high-profile exonerations and landed Watkins a feature on 60 Minutes and other national acclaim. Similarly, the Forensic Science Commission and State Fire Marshall have partnered with IPOT to review arson cases of people currently incarcerated in TDCJ for errors that may have led to false convictions. And after incompetent drug analysts were discovered in El Paso and at a DPS lab in Houston, the agencies systematically notified defense counsel. After the incident in Houston, the DA's Association recommended that "For any case with a bad retest, or cases with now-destroyed evidence, [prosecutors should] request that the court appoint an attorney to take the case through a writ process if appropriate."
Still, though, that's happening only on an ad hoc basis. Fort Bend Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett for years used highly suspect techniques in "scent lineups" which Texas courts have now disavowed. Even so, Pikett claimed to have performed scent lineups with his dogs in more than 2,000 cases and testified in court many times, but there's been no official review - by the Fort Bend Sheriff, the Texas Attorney General, the Forensic Science Commission (outside their jurisdiction), or anyone else. In this case, analysts from Texas crime labs including at DPS testified for years about hair and fiber evidence in similarly overstated ways as the FBI, recently reining in the language they use in court and relying more where possible on much more accurate DNA evidence. Pretty much everybody agrees such overstated analyses were both problematic and used for a long time. But there's no state-level review of hair-and-fiber testimony in past cases comparable to what's happening at the FBI, neither here in Texas nor to my knowledge in other states, even though it's obvious the same issues extend far beyond FBI analysts."

The entire story can be found at:


I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.