TheTexas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in Winfrey v. Texas is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Appeals Court Issues Acquittal in Dog-Scent Murder Case," is the Texas Tribune report by Brandi Grissom.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday issued an acquittal in the case of Megan Winfrey, 24, who has been behind bars since 2007 in a murder case in which her conviction was based almost entirely on evidence from dog-scent lineups.
Winfrey, along with her father, Richard Winfrey, and her brother Richard Winfrey Jr. were charged with the 2004 murder of school janitor Murray Burr in Coldspring. Richard Winfrey Jr. was acquitted by a jury in 2009. Richard Winfrey Sr. was convicted in 2007, but the Court of Appeals acquitted him in 2009, ruling that the dog-scent evidence was insufficient for his conviction.
The court’s decision Wednesday in Megan Winfrey’s case was based largely on the one it issued when it acquitted her father, finding that the state’s evidence against her was insufficient. In her case, the San Jacinto district attorney had argued that along with dog-scent evidence, her suspicious behavior amounted to enough evidence to support her conviction. Prosecutors alleged, among other things, that she attempted to thwart DNA testing by shaving her pubic hair and that teachers at her school overheard her make threatening remarks about Burr and his money. The court disagreed with the prosecutors.
“Basing a finding of appellant's guilt on this evidence and all of the other evidence is, at best, ‘mere theorizing or guessing’ about [the] appellant's possible guilt rather than a reasonable inference based upon evidence and facts presented,” the court wrote in its majority opinion.
The Austin American-Statesman reports, "Court tosses dog-scent lineup murder conviction." It's by Chuck Lindell.
Like her father and brother, Winfrey was identified as a murder suspect by bloodhounds owned and trained by Keith Pikett, a now-retired Fort Bend County deputy sheriff who claimed his dogs were nearly infallible in linking suspects to crime scenes based on the personal scent they left behind.
No physical evidence or witnesses tied the Winfreys to their neighbor’s murder. In addition, forensic evidence collected from Burr’s home — DNA from blood stains, fingerprints, hair and a bloody footprint — excluded the Winfreys.
Pikett’s findings, however, played a central role in separate trials for the three family members.
Pikett testified that his dogs indicated that they smelled the Winfreys’ scent on gauze pads that had been wiped on clothing Burr was wearing when he was killed. The pads were placed in unsterilized coffee cans about 10 steps apart in a field or parking lot, a lineup method Pikett said he developed in his spare time.
"San Jacinto County woman acquitted of life sentence for murder," is the Cleveland Advocate report by Melecio Franco.
The Winfrey family was indicted in the murder but only two were convicted. Richard Winfrey Jr., the son, was found not guilty after only 13 minutes of jury deliberation, according to Baccus-Lobel. His father, Richard Winfrey Sr. and his sister Megan, were both found guilty in 2007.
The convictions were the beginning of a long legal battle for the family.
Baccus-Lobel and defense attorney Billy Ravkind fought for years to have the convictions overturned.
“There was no physical evidence, no forensic evidence — and there was tons of it — that connected any of these people to the crime scene,” said Baccus-Lobel. “Not Megan, her father or her brother.”
Baccus-Lobel noted that some of the physical evidence included a footprint found in the victim’s blood along with hairs and DNA evidence.