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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, August 8, 2011

"Dog Helps a Witness Testify, and Legal Questions Follow"

From the New York Times:

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.

. . .

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.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2011/08/dog-helps-a-witness-testify-and-legal-questions-follow.html

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