Friday, July 31, 2009
Bill Dillon Appears To Be a Victim Of Junk Science!
Legal Pub has in the past commented that too much emphasis should not be placed on lie detector tests (link) and cadaver sniffing dogs (link.) Now Bill Dillon serves as a further example of why our justice system should use scientific evidence to prove innocence but should exercise extreme caution when using untested science to convict a suspect. Dillon, a Florida man, was convicted of murder in large part because of the work of a scent-tracking dog. At the time Dillon was 22 years old. He is now free because the scent sniffing dog and it's owner were apparently a fraud. Unfortunately, the alleged fraud was not timely exposed and Bill Dillon had to spend 26 years in prison.
Bill Dillon was sentenced to life in prison in 1981 for killing a man in Canova Beach. Throughout the trial, Dillon proclaimed his innocence. But John Preston testified in court that his scent-tracking German-Shepherd connected Dillon to the killer’s bloody t-shirt. Preston also claimed that “Harrass 2,” his dog, tracked Dillon’s scent again in later tests. At the time, Preston proclaimed himself as a so-called scent -tracking expert. But in 2007, DNA testing proved that Dillon’s DNA did not match the DNA on the killer’s shirt. Harrass 2 was wrong! After 26 years of jail, Bill Dillon was released.
In 1981, DNA testing was not available to use as exculpatory evidence. Preston and his dog had a reputation for reliability. The dog and Preston had help persuade juries more than 100 times. At one time Preston even said that his dog had the ability to track a scent under water. Most current experts don't believe that to be possible.
Although the reliability of Preston and his dog weres seriously called into question in 1987, Florida has yet to officially review all of the cases in which such testimony was admitted. Florida’s Innocence Project opines that there may be many inmates that have been wrongly convicted because of this scent sniffing dog. Preston, the dog’s handler, was never charged with perjury or convicted of a crime. He passed away last year.