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Name: People v. Willis
Case #: B160530
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 01/28/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 4/14/04

The admission of dog scent evidence in a murder trial was harmless error. At trial, the court admitted testimony from a dog handler who worked with a search dog trained to identify people in criminal investigation by matching a suspect’s scent with scents found at the crime scene. The handler testified that crime scene scents were collected using a vacuum device called a “scent transfer unit.” The court of appeal held that this was scientific evidence that should have been excluded under the Kelly-Frye standard, since the scent transfer unit was a novel device, and the dog handler who testified did not meet the qualifications for an expert witness who could testify as to the device’s acceptance in the scientific community. However, given the abundant evidence of defendant’s guilt, the error was not prejudicial.