Governor Rick Scott has formally apologized “on behalf of the state of Florida” for the 27 years William Dillon spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. He has also signed a claims bill of $1.35 million. It took another three years of Dillon’s life to navigate the process of getting compensation from the state. But Dillon remains unsettled over the thought of others wrongfully convicted by the now deceased John Preston, Brevard County authorities’ go-to witness whose German shepherd had quite a nose. Preston claimed he could pick up a scent in the middle of a lake or on a highway long after the crime. A judge eventually put the dog to a number of tests and the pup flunked. In the judge’s words, John Preston was used “to confirm the state’s preconceived notions about cases.”
As Scott Maxwell has written in an Orlando Sentinel piece (here) how to handle this issue is a political test. Three men wrongfully convicted with the help of Preston have been released from prison but many fear there are more, and it will take a long time for the Florida Innocence Project and other advocates to pursue them one at a time. Advocates would like to see the state conduct a comprehensive review of the cases in which Preston testified.
The article notes that Attorney General Pam Bondi made a campaign promise to do the review, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Dillon and others are now hoping that the governor’s apology will be followed by a call for an investigation of all convictions prompted by dog sniffing evidence.