Chalk this up in the unexpected results category.
Over the past few years, animals—usually dogs—have been used more and more in courtrooms around the country, even in Arizona. It’s been discovered that they have a soothing effect on parties and other trial participants. Thus, in their own unique way, dogs may contribute to the administration of justice.
Former State Bar of Arizona President Ray Hanna wrote on the topic last year. He described pioneer steps taken by courts in Florida and Washington State to integrate dogs into the courtroom. (It also allowed him the opportunity to feature a photo of his own beautiful dog.)
As the author writes:
“Some criminal law attorneys feel the use of therapy dogs in the courtroom is a violation of the defendant’s rights to a fair trial and that the dog, with its cuteness and subtle communication about the victim and truth of testimony, will prejudice the jury. Criminal defense lawyers have complained about the negative effects created against the criminal defendant by the presence of a therapy dog in a criminal trial.
“This factor has unknown impact against the work of a criminal lawyer to defend their client and obtain a fair trial. Attorneys are citing the conviction results of a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., rape trial as proof that the effect of the presence of [therapy dog] Rosie influenced the trial outcome.”
The New York trial he refers to was covered by The New York Times here.
The reporter writes:
“Prosecutors [in Dutchess County, N.Y.] noted that [Rosie] is 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.”
Read the blog post and the NYT article and let me know what you think. Do you agree with the concerns raised? Would a juror be swayed by the presence of a therapy dog? Do these animals have a place in the courtroom? If they do, should their use be modified?
And for more information on Howard Snader and his practice, click here.Follow @azatty