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Name: People v. Mitchell
Case #: B151026
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/18/2003

The trial court erred in admitting evidence that a defendant had been identified in a canine scent identification lineup without first holding a hearing under People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24. The scent transfer unit (described as “essentially a modified dust buster”) which was used to obtain the scent from shell casings from the murder weapon and then transferred to a gauze pad) was a novel device used in furtherance of new technique. The court was concerned that the scent of the shell casings may have been affected by the heat and pressure of being fired from a gun, the passage of time between when they were purportedly touched by the defendant, the conditions under which the casings were stored, and the collection of the casings’ scent by the scent transfer unit. There was also an absence of any evidence that every person has a scent so unique that it provides an accurate basis for a scent identification lineup. However, the court found the error harmless in light of the eyewitness identification, admissions by defendant, and other circumstantial evidence of guilt.