I can't imagine what could possibly be more traumatic for a 15-year-old girl than being raped and impregnated by her own father ... except, perhaps, for then having to testify against that father in court. The New York teenager who recently faced this horrible challenge (her name is being withheld) was understandably terrified to take the stand, but of course she had to do it anyway -- there was no other way to be sure her father would be convicted of his terrible crime.
That's where Rosie came in.
Rosie, a golden retriever, is the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York. Her job is to comfort children and other vulnerable witnesses in front of juries. In the case of the teenage rape victim, Rosie sat at her feet and nuzzled the girl whenever she started to get upset.
Sounds like a great idea, right? To everybody except the defense lawyers, apparently. And you'll never believe the sleazy claim they're making.
Attorneys for the girl's father, Victor Tohom -- who, by the way, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison -- are saying that Rosie influenced jurors unfairly. They allege that every time the teenager pet the dog, "it sent an unconscious message to the jury that she was under stress because she was telling the truth." AND there was "no way to cross-examine the dog."
Wow. Tell me that's not the most pathetic case of legal sour grapes you've ever heard! No way to cross-examine the dog. Oh, and I forgot to mention the part about the defense lawyers complaining that because Rosie is "cute," she "infected the trial with ... unfairness."
Uh, I've got news for you, defense team for Victor Tohom: Your despicable client didn't need a "cute" dog to make him look like a monster. Courtroom dogs are used in the same capacity as seeing-eye dogs, to support witnesses who need them. The judge who ruled that Rosie could be used for the trial in the first place likened Rosie to a teddy bear allowed to accompany a child on the witness stand in a previous trial. Would the jury have found Victor Tohom innocent rather than guilty simply because he had a teddy bear?
That any defense lawyer could sleep at night appealing the case of a man who raped his own daughter on the basis of her "cute" witness stand companion is beyond horrifying to me.
Do you think courtroom dogs are a good idea for child witnesses?
Image via Sonja Lovas/Flickr