View Full Version : Dogs as "testimony enablers"

08-09-2011, 07:33 PM
Our amazing canine friends!


By Helping a Girl Testify at a Rape Trial, a Dog Ignites a Legal Debate

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/08/09/nyregion/DOG/DOG-articleLarge.jpg Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times
Rosie, who comforts traumatized children and aided a teenager on the stand in a rape trial, outside the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with Dale Picard.

By WILLIAM GLABERSON (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/william_glaberson/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

Published: August 8, 2011

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — Rosie, the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York, was in the witness box here nuzzling a 15-year-old girl who was testifying that her father had raped and impregnated her. Rosie sat by the teenager’s feet. At particularly bad moments, she leaned in.

When the trial ended in June with the father’s conviction, the teenager “was most grateful to Rosie above all,” said David A. Crenshaw, a psychologist who works with the teenager.
“She just kept hugging Rosie,” he continued.

Now an appeal planned by the defense lawyers is placing Rosie at the heart of a legal debate that will test whether there will be more Rosies in courtrooms in New York and, possibly, other states.

Rosie (http://abcnews.go.com/US/service-dog-court-takes-witness-stand/story?id=13958418) is a golden retriever therapy dog who specializes in comforting people when they are under stress. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers have described her as adorable, though she has been known to slobber.

Prosecutors here noted that she is also in the vanguard of a growing trial trend: in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana and some other states in the last few years, courts have allowed such trained dogs to offer children and other vulnerable witnesses nuzzling solace in front of juries.

The new role for dogs as testimony enablers can, however, raise thorny legal questions. Defense lawyers argue that the dogs may unfairly sway jurors with their cuteness and the natural empathy they attract, whether a witness is telling the truth or not, and some prosecutors insist that the courtroom dogs can be a crucial comfort to those enduring the ordeal of testifying, especially children.

The new witness-stand role for dogs in several states began in 2003, when the prosecution won permission for a dog named Jeeter with a beige button nose to help in a sexual assault case in Seattle. “Sometimes the dog means the difference between a conviction and an acquittal,” said Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a prosecutor there who has become a campaigner for the dog-in-court cause (http://courthousedogs.com/).

Service dogs (http://www.animallaw.info/journals/jo_pdf/lralvol15_2_p171.pdf) have long been permitted in courts. But in a ruling in June that allowed Rosie to accompany the teenage rape victim to the trial here, a Dutchess County Court judge, Stephen L. Greller, said the teenager was traumatized and the defendant, Victor Tohom, appeared threatening. Although he said there was no precedent in the state, Judge Greller ruled that Rosie was similar to the teddy bear that a New York appeals court said (http://ny.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19940714_0050061.NY.htm/qx) in 1994 could accompany a child witness.


The grounds for the appeal was the dog was so appealing that it prejudiced the jury. What do you think? Should dogs be allowed to be in court?

08-09-2011, 07:44 PM
Anything reasonable which would lend the little girl enough courage to get on the stand and tell the truth in the face of those who tormented her should be accommodated. That's a no brainier. I would consider a well trained service dog reasonable, something like a pet snake or something that might frighten the jurors or others, isn't so reasonable.

08-09-2011, 08:58 PM
Dogs are so amazing? Do you know why dogs bark? Not because they are dogs, but because that is how they communicate with us. They do not bark to communicate with each other.

08-09-2011, 10:17 PM
Dogs are so amazing? Do you know why dogs bark? Not because they are dogs, but because that is how they communicate with us. They do not bark to communicate with each other.

They are amazing. Some years ago I had my first greyhound, Jessie, at the Missouri Veterans Home. He seemed to know to go to a distinguished looking gentleman, who stood straight and proud despite his advanced age.

The man leaned over and petted and loved on my Jessie and said "Good doggie". One of the nurses started crying and turned her head. Later she told me that those were the first words that World War II vet had said in years.

I was so proud of my Jessie. He was such a good boy---except when he chewed the only expensive pair of sunglasses I had or nibbled on one of the Sony remotes or stole loaves of good bakery bread. That calmed down as he became older, but he always was a wonderful dog.

08-10-2011, 12:32 AM
My Dog, Kato I inherited from my dad when he passed away. He is a fine dog. He still misses my dad though. My dad loved woodworking. He would do intricate and time consuming pieces on his scroll saw. Kato would lay at his feet, getting covered in saw dust and wood chips. Every once in a while Kato goes into the wood shop and will lay at his spot by the scroll saw. He won't nap or anything. He will just lay there with his head on his paws.

08-10-2011, 12:52 AM
I have two dogs now, I had another one, Sarge, that passed away a year or so ago. We are getting another one though. My daughter wants one, and I suppose it will be good responsibility education for her. We are looking at local shelters right now. I need to find a shelter that will give us the puppy on a trial basis though, to make sure it will work out with my other dogs and our lifestyle, etc.