Smith Co. District Attorney's office dog helps victims testify - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Smith Co. District Attorney's office dog helps victims testify

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

Thursday was the first day on the job for a brand new courthouse dog in the Smith County District Attorney's Office. The dog will be used to help children testify in court.

You may remember, two-year-old Macy served as a facility court house dog for almost a year with the District Attorney's office in Smith County, until she passed away last December to bone cancer.

Since the loss of Macy, the District Attorney's office thought it was time to bring in her successor.

Two-year-old Sophie just finished up her specialized training in California to become a facility service dog. Victims Services Director for the Smith County Courthouse,

Sherry Magness says the dog is there to help children when they are asked to testify in court.

"Basically, whatever that child needs while they are here, that's what she'll be doing," says Magness.

Sophie is trained to sit by the feet of the children during their testimony. If emotion is expressed, Sophie will put her head on the children's knees for comfort.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says Sophie is strictly there to help the children.

"The law allows the children to take with them a comfort item, and that's what Sophie is," explains Bingham.

Bobby Mims, a local Criminal Defense Attorney, feels like Sophie is used as a theatrical device, bringing in unnecessary emotions.

"It is supposed to be difficult to testify in court, that's the reason why we have an oath, that's the reason why we have a witness stand, and it is certainly supposed to be difficult, so people will tell the truth, not to have some prop or crutch there," says Mims.

Bingham says defense attorneys need to give Smith County jurors more credit, "The jurors will understand that this is something to help the child, it's not evidence of guilt."

Mims says, "If there is some way that they can protect the jury from knowing the dog is there, then throw it out there have a hearing on it, and maybe we'll agree to it."

Until then, Sophie is in the District Attorney's office, offering her service for any witness that needs comfort.

Sophie was placed for free, so there is no expense to the taxpayer.

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