Incredible story from Orlando, where police and prosecutors were apparently convicting people of violent crimes based almost exclusively on the "testimony" of a police dog whose handler claimed has extraordinary powers.
Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free…
At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.
Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.
Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.
Judges and juries apparently bought this crap for years. It finally came to an end when Judge Gilbert Goshorn ordered the dog to perform a basic tracking test after Preston claimed the dog had alerted to a suspect's scent at a crime scene six months after the murder. The dog failed.
So far, three people have been cleared after collectively spending more than 50 years in prison, all of whom were convicted primarily due to the dog's alerts, despite other evidence exculpating them. Florida criminal justice activists say there may be as 60 more people wrongly convicted thanks to Preston and his dog.
Yet Florida officials don't seem to care, and have no plans to proactively look for other people who may have been wrongly imprisoned.
In a statement, [Florida State's Attorney] Wolfinger's office said it didn't have a list of the cases in which Preston testified — nor even the records that would allow the office to compile such a list.
Essentially, Wolfinger contends it's up to defendants to raise questions about these decades-old cases.
"Defendants have had rights in Florida to challenge their convictions through a well established post-conviction process," the statement said.
A similar response came from Crist's office, which said: "We believe this is a judicial issue and should be handled on a case-by-case analysis through the judicial system."
A spokeswoman for the state's top cop, Attorney General Bill McCollum, simply declared the matter beyond her boss's "jurisdiction."