Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another job for dogs ...

Dog helps children to testify

Dog helps children to testify

The girl on the stand - with fifteen years of trauma - was scared. The defendant, his father, still clearly had the power to intimidate.

Occasionally she looked at him and the effect could be seen. Tone down, hesitated, stopped in the middle of an answer. At such times, the animal got closer to her feet, brushed her with the nose, or leaned against her. The girl hugged her and went on.

In the end, the defendant was sentenced to capital punishment for crimes of rape: 25 years to a life sentence. It was just the latest case in which justice was done with the presence of a canine in a U.S. court.

The use of dogs to help particularly vulnerable witnesses to feel safe is a growing practice in the U.S.. Two dozen jurisdictions, from New York to Hawaii and going through Texas, Idaho and Missouri, have officially adopted it. At least one foreign court in Santiago, Chile, did the same.
You can not cross-examine a dog

Prosecutors love it. Not only the dog or bitch gives an emotional support and encourages the witness to speak, as juries seem to be susceptible to persuasion in this way.

There is the idea that if a child or other victim have a nearby dog - especially a dog as cute as Rosie, the golden retriever in the case above - is half the battle for the jury to believe in the testimony. "Sometimes it means the difference between conviction and acquittal," said one attorney.

By the same token, the defense lawyers object. O Tohom already announced that it will probably be one of the elements to use in the appeal. "Every time the girl was stroking the dog, the jury sent a subconscious message that was in stress to be telling the truth," said one.

Furthermore, he added, we can not cross-examine a dog.
Like the teddy bears

On the same day and in the same court in Poughkeepsie, New York, another trial in which Rosie would also be involved - the bitch is on permanent duty to the court - was interrupted when suddenly the defendant confessed. Also there came to witness children, daughters of a murdered woman, and he wanted to avoid that.

As much as the lawyers criticize, the practice should continue. Already in 1994 there were those who tried to nullify a sentence for the victim to have witnessed accompanied by a teddy bear, and at the time it didn't worked.

The court ruled that it did not affect the credibility of testimony.


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