Dog Takes Stand in Criminal Trial

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....

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 is a golden retriever therapy dog who specializes in comforting people when they are under stress....

[Defense] lawyers, David S. Martin and Steven W. Levine of the public defender’s office, have raised a series of objections that they say seems likely to land the case in New York’s highest court. They argue that as a therapy dog, Rosie responds to people under stress by comforting them, whether the stress comes from confronting a guilty defendant or lying under oath.

But they say jurors are likely to conclude that the dog is helping victims expose the truth. “Every time she stroked the dog,” Mr. Martin said in an interview, “it sent an unconscious message to the jury that she was under stress because she was telling the truth.”

“There was no way for me to cross-examine the dog,” Mr. Martin added.


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September 30, 2011 @01:03 am
by — Eileen

I think the defense is grasping at straws to suggest that a therapy dog on the stand is helping someone lie under stress. If they are sworn in, they're sworn in.

August 29, 2011 @02:34 pm
by — Kristina McHugh

I think these folks have to get over it and let the dog do this awesome job, no questions asked. So cool to use animals in therapy - win win. How could a jurors opinion of the truth be swayed by the dog? The dog just wants to be like you Ivan, a leaner givin' the love. If it happens to be helping a human feel better, whether guilty or innocent, so be it. Maybe that person's soul would get some good healing going. Couldn't everyone use a little healing? The evidence can take care of the rest. That said, I would need to do some serious Gandhi channeling if I was that dog in a court room with that father.

August 23, 2011 @01:28 pm
by — Ivan

I know what kind of a therapy dog I might have been if I was called to the stand, and I'm sorry to say that it wouldn't be to Gandhi's liking. That horrible excuse for a human being would have seen me flying over the tables at him with a most ferocious snarl. It does raise an interesting legal question though. Might the presence of therapy dogs unfairly sway a jury? I don't think so, but then again, I'm a dog. What are your thoughts?

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