The effects of facility animals in the courtroom on juror decision-making

Document
Description

Courthouse dogs (sometimes referred to as facility animals) are expertly trained canines which may be used to assist individuals with psychological, emotional, or physical difficulties in a myriad of courtroom

Courthouse dogs (sometimes referred to as facility animals) are expertly trained canines which may be used to assist individuals with psychological, emotional, or physical difficulties in a myriad of courtroom situations. While these animals are increasingly used to assist young witness to court, the jury is still out on whether or not they are prejudicial to the defendant. No known research exists in this area, although research is necessary to determine the possibly prejudicial nature of these animals. Using a mock trial paradigm involving a child sexual abuse case, the current study employed a 2 (Witness type: victim vs. bystander) x 3 (Innovation type: courthouse dog vs. teddy bear vs. none) fully-crossed factorial design. It was hypothesized that witness type and innovation type would interact to differentially impact jurors' judgments about the trial, defendant, and child witness. In addition, it was posited that emotions, such as anger and disgust, would also affect judgments and decision-making. Results indicate that courthouse dogs and comfort toys did impact jurors' decision making in some ways. In addition, emotions and witness credibility predicted sentencing, verdict, and other trial judgments.