Stilson, The Invisible Dog in the Courtroom
In September of 2012, in Snohomish County, WA, Mary Mazalic was brought to trial for starving, beating and burning a ten year old girl.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Paul filed a motion in limine to ask the court’s permission to allow facility dog Stilson to sit at the feet of this child victim while she testified in court. Her brief included an affidavit from victim advocate Heidi Potter, Stilson’s handler, documenting how Stilson provided comfort to this child during the investigative phase of these crimes. See Trial Memo page 33 and Appendix A.
The judge found that this child suffered emotional trauma from these events.
The defense did not object to the presence of Stilson with the agreement that he would be concealed by the witness box and the jury would not be aware of his presence.
While in the witness box, Stilson remained calm and out of sight during the lengthy direct and cross-examination. He did not even move when defense counsel spilled a glass of water into the witness box and several people moved to this area to clean up the water.
The defendant was convicted as charged.
After the trial, jurors stated they did not know that a dog was in the courtroom.
Neither did the reporter who covered the trial.