Md. court allows support dog for 1st time during girl’s testimony

In what is believed to be a first in a Maryland courtroom, a certified comfort dog was brought to the witness stand to help a victim testify.

The testimony came at the trial of 38-year-old James Robert IV, of Severn.

A girl who said Robert repeatedly raped her, and also choked and threatened to kill her, took the stand in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court with a comfort dog provided by Caring Canines.

“Testifying in court can be extremely traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault especially for a child,” said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “In this case, the use of a comfort dog provided the survivor with a sense of safety, as she recounted the horrific details about the abuse she suffered.”

Robert was convicted of the charges that included sex abuse of a minor and seven counts of rape. His sentencing is set for Jan. 29, 2020.

Last year, circuit courts in Anne Arundel and Harford counties launched a pilot program allowing comfort dogs to accompany children on the witness stand.

Anne Arundel County Administrative Judge Laura Ripken supports the program, and she considers written requests for comfort dogs on behalf of children taking part in criminal or civil court proceedings.

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