Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Has Texas Monthly heard of the Victoria Advocate?


I was waiting to get a flat tire fixed, so I unexpectedly had extra time on my hands. I recalled I hadn't read an article about questionable forensic science in the May edition of Texas Monthly, one of the finest magazines of its kind in the country, and there it was in the waiting room. (Another customer had commandeered the crosswords puzzle in the Advocate.)

I was interested in this story because it followed an in-depth investigation by reporter Leslie Wilber and multimedia editor Robert Zavala in July 2009. Their outstanding work, titled "Does it Pass the Smell Test?", was recently honored by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors with the top community service award. A corresponding Advocate editorial board opinion, "Justice Gone to the Dogs", was cited by the Texas APME judges in awarding this newspaper the top award in editorial writing.

Texas Monthly's author broadened the scope in his "Weird Science" to look at questionable forensic evidence in general and not only at scent lineups. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes in my youth, I particularly liked how the author traced the public's love affair with this type of sleuthing back to the 1800s. (I also enjoyed the headline's reference to Anthony Michael Hall's pleasantly bizarre 1980s movie.)

I was puzzled, though, by why the author couldn't find room in the long piece to mention the Victoria Advocate. He did refer briefly to an article on the same subject by the New York Times. Considerable state and national media attention followed the Advocate's work, including a November 2009 Times article titled "Picked from a Lineup, on a Whiff of Evidence."

Given that so much of the Texas Monthly piece centered on groundbreaking work by Wilber, a courtesy nod in her direction seemed appropriate. No real harm done, though. The Texas Monthly journalist did his own work on an important subject. Although Wilber has since moved back to Colorado, I know her real passion was in exposing this flaw in our criminal justice system.

We continue to follow the story of scent dog lineups through the various court cases that have ensued. If you'd like to take a look back at our original package, you may view the print version on the Texas APME contest page.