Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Judge Alexa bars dog tracking evidence from McCowan trial

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Prosecutors will not be allowed to enter dog-tracking evidence against the accused murderer of Amanda Bach, Dustin McCowan, when his trial begins on Feb. 4.

On Thursday, Porter Superior Court Judge Alexa granted a motion filed by McCowan’s attorneys on Aug. 16, seeking the exclusion of that evidence.

Prosecutors had hoped to introduce the results of tracks made on Sept. 21-22 by retired PCSP Sgt. Charlie Douthett’s bloodhound Jury, who Douthett testified at the hearing in August had alerted to McCowan’s scent at the site near his home where Bach’s body was found; at Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130, where Bach’s abandoned vehicle was found; and along Jones Road and C.R. 650W, the main route between McCowan’s former home on C.R. 625W in Union Township and Dean’s.

Exactly how useful that evidence would have been—had Alexa allowed it—is unclear, since under cross-examination by McCowan’s attorney, Nick Barnes, Douthett acknowledged that under certain circumstances it’s not only possible for a scent to last in excess of five months but also for a bloodhound to track a person who’s traveled in a vehicle.

In any event, Alexa did not allow the dog-tracking evidence as proof of guilt. Citing well-established Indiana case law nearly a century old, Alexa ruled that “bloodhound evidence is inadmissible because it is an unreliable form of evidence.”

In that specific case, Ruse vs. State (Ind. 1917), the Indiana Supreme Court ruled as follows: “When it is considered that the use of bloodhounds, even under the most favorable conditions, is attended with some degree of uncertainty, which may readily lead to the conviction or accusation of innocent persons, and that, at best, evidence as to their conduct in following a supposed trail is properly not of a great probative value, it follows . . . that both reason and instinct condemn such evidence, and courts should be too jealous of the life and liberty of human beings to permit its reception in a criminal case as proof of guilt.”

A much more recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court, in 1985, also upheld the Ruse vs. State ruling, Alexa noted.

The Case

McCowan is accused of shooting Bach to death sometime in the morning of Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Bach’s body was found in the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, some 36 hours after she went missing, in a scrub area south of the Canadian National right-of-way near McCowan’s home.

McCowan told investigators that Bach had been visiting him and left his home around 1:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Her abandoned vehicle was discovered with a flat tire at Dean’s around 3:23 a.m.

An autopsy determined that Bach had been killed by a single bullet wound to the throat.

 

 

Posted 12/14/2012