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'Smell Expert' Helps Get Marijuana-Grow Defendants Off the Hook

It makes sense when you think about it, but I never before stopped to ponder the fact that among the many types of expert witnesses out there in the world are "smell experts."

For example, let's say you are an Alaskan trooper with more than 20 years of experience. You have investigated and seized between 100 to 150 marijuana-grow operations since 1998 that you have located "by smell." On the day in question, you are driving in a residential area, 450 feet away from the "outbuilding" of a house, downwind, and you smell marijuana. Long story short, you obtain a search warrant, search the property and find 500 marijuana plants, more than 200 of which are budding. Jackpot!

Enter David Doty.

Doty is the director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and he was retained by the defendants as a smell expert. According to the Anchorage Daily News, (via Bad Lawyer) Doty testified that, in his opinion (to a "reasonable degree of olfactory certainty," perhaps, if I'm remembering the legal jargon correctly), there "was a 'zero' probability that [the trooper] smelled marijuana as he claimed." 

Doty said that based on the facts -- such as the outbuilding's location at least 450 feet from the road; the building's lack of windows and the provision of two garage doors, which were insulated and sealed; and the outbuilding's use of a large charcoal air filter designed to capture odor -- it was doubtful that anyone could have smelled marijuana in that situation.

The judge agreed with Doty and therefore threw out the seized evidence -- including the 500 marijuana plants. I assume the defendants quite happily paid their smell expert's fee, reported to be $20,000.

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 27, 2011 at 06:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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