August 20, 2020 14 minute to read ∙ 3100 words

Courthouse Facility Dogs: A Witness’s Best Friend

By Jill Mariani

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Reprinted with permission from Criminal Justice, Volume 35, Number 2, Summer 2020, at 14-18. ©2020 by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

“Dogs are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life (1857), quoted in People v. Tohom, 969 N.Y.S.2d 123 (App. Div. 2013), leave denied, 22 N.Y.3d 1203 (2014).

Many victims of violence lose the power of their voice. Depending on the degree of trauma and the nature of the crime, a victim may feel ostracized and powerless. Articulating the details of the criminal acts perpetrated against a victim to strangers, including police, jurors, judges, spectators, and the perpetrator and their counsel, can trigger disturbing emotions and rekindle the trauma the victims experienced during the actual events.

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