Texas court upholds exclusion of unreliable scent-lineup evidence

A Texas appeals court affirmed the exclusion of evidence that a dog identified a defendant’s scent in a “scent-lineup” in State v. Dominguez. The trial court found that human scent identification by a canine is not sufficiently reliable to be admitted in evidence in a criminal trial, based on the defendant’s motion to suppress and the testimony of a state and a defense expert. The appeals court affirmed that finding.

It may be worthwhile to take a look at the defendant’s arguments regarding reliability, especially in light the recent North Carolina legislation. Session Law 2011-283 makes several changes to the Rules of Evidence, including new tort limits, but the changes to G.S. 8C-702(a) apply to expert testimony in criminal cases as well. The rule requires for expert testimony, as a condition of admissibility:

(1) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data.
(2) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods.
(3) The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

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