Court dog Brooksie goes to 1st jury trial

Circuit Judge Gregory Nicholas poses with the court’s newest officer, Brooksie, a 2-year-old labradoodle, in this July 2019 file photo. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – On Monday afternoon, Cullman’s court dog Brooksie took the stand in her first jury trial, a child abuse case in which the alleged victim, a minor, had to testify as a witness. According to court officials, the dog was brought into the witness box while the witness and jury were outside. The witness was brought in and allowed to interact with Brooksie for a few minutes before the jury entered. When jurors came in, they were informed of the presence of a court dog, but could not see her, a practice in keeping with state regulations.

Gail Swafford of Brooks’ Place, who has used Brooksie in forensic interviews at the Child Advocacy Center, was a witness in the trial and could not be present during the young witness’ testimony, but she heard from others who watched the proceedings.

“She never made any noises and she served her purpose, which was to help calm the victim,” said Swafford. “The victim did exceptionally well. I think having Brooksie in here made a world of difference to her.”

One person who was in the courtroom during the witness’ testimony said, “She just seemed to be more calm for her, and she seemed to be more at ease, more than she typically would. I think Brooksie did her job, as far as what she’s there for.”

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W.C. Mann