Sweet Golden Retriever Helps Rape Victims Testify in Court


golden retrieverI 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

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nonmember avatar DT

children need some sort of comfort while really being put on the spot

PonyC... PonyChaser

I don't think kids should have to testify. However, I also realize that those are my emotions talking, and logically, sometimes they are the only ones who *can* testify. In that case, if they need something to help them, I'm all for it. I would understand the defense objecting to the child's mother being up there with her - another person can certainly influece the child's testimony. But animals are proven therapy companions, used in dozens of situations - elderly homes, with the mentally disabled, even with just plain shy kids, to help them acclimate with their surroundings. I see nothing wrong with Rosie being on the stand with this little girl. A little furry courage, if you will.

PonyC... PonyChaser

and no, the Golden laying with his head on my foot in NO WAY affected my answer here today... ;)

1blue... 1bluemonkey

I kind of feel like on this one, the defense lawyer knows damn good and well that this is bogus, and that these claims will be thrown out - he's just covering his own ass to say, "I did everything I could" so the bastard he was defending couldn't come back and ask for a new trial due to having an incompetent defense.

Xakana Xakana

People can be so damned heartless to the differently abled. I have a friend whose job blocked her from coming with her service dog and while she desperately tried to get an advocate, she can't even begin to afford a lawyer. She's barely making it day to day and the dog is a physical stabilizer (she has a cyst in her brain that causes severe balance issues and seizures) as well as a psychological stabilizer (she has severe PTSD). But they're getting away with it because, like many disabled people, she can't afford to fight it.

Sadly, this is the case for a LOT of disabled persons--facing discrimination due to service animals. I think it's wonderful that this dog was available to the poor girl. For frack's sake--that it even WENT to trial--that the man FOUGHT it... hadn't he hurt her enough as it was??

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Personally, I'd pet the dog if I was under stress or not. I just love dogs. And having a dog there as a comfort object would probably make me more relaxed. I'm sure there are others who are the same way. I don't think the judge should have make the girl face her abuser in a courtroom and be forced to re-tell her horrific story in front of both the abuser and strangers in the court. It's embarassing and humiliating, especially if you don't know for sure that guy is going to jail for quite a long time.

Marjc... Marjchaos

Yup. My dentist sometimes has a small sweet dog in his waiting rom and i find my stress greatly lessened when she is there.

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