HOUSTON (CN) – Three men say Houston police and Fort Bend County sheriff’s officers used dogs in a “junk science” lineup technique to prosecute them for crimes they did not commit – including capital murder. Fort Bend County Deputy Sheriff Keith Pikett invented the technique in the 1990s, using bloodhounds to “match” crime scene evidence to suspects, according to the federal complaint.
“Defendant Pikett never tested the dog scent lineups’ accuracy, nor did he establish a set of standards under which to conduct the lineups,” the plaintiffs say. “Instead, defendant Pikett repeatedly lied under oath about his qualifications, his training and the supposed infallibility of his dog identifications.”
Plaintiffs Ronald Curtis, Cedric Johnson and Curvis Bickham say Pikett used the unreliable “dog scent lineup” techniques in thousands of criminal investigations. They say Houston police officers helped Pikett concoct the fraudulent evidence used against them.
Pikett’s techniques were exposed as fraudulent in 2006 when his dogs implicated an innocent man in a murder in which the true perpetrator later confessed, the plaintiffs say.
Johnson and Bickham say they were wrongfully accused of capital murder when Houston police swabbed their faces with gauze and gave it to Pikett, whose dogs “confirmed” their scent on evidence from the crime scene.
Curtis says he was wrongfully convicted of robbing stores by Pikett’s dog scent lineups, and he spent 3 months in jail before the charges were dismissed.
Houston police officers corroborated Pikett’s sham techniques with testimony they coerced from jailhouse informants, and false accusations that the plaintiffs looked like people on surveillance videos, the plaintiffs say.
Houston Police Department defendants include Sgts. M. McStravick and W. Anthony, Officers E. Cisneros, J. Robles and C.W Stivers; Pikett’s boss Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright is also a defendant, as is Fort Bend County.
The plaintiffs seek damages for due process violations, false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Katherine Scardino.