Courthouse dog joins Cumberland County legal team

Courthouse dog joins Cumberland County legal team

Posted:
Murch will sit under the witness stand, trained to stay still, and provide comfort. Murch will sit under the witness stand, trained to stay still, and provide comfort.
"It's a really difficult process for the kids that come here, they have suffered some severe trauma," explained Jennifer Wilkerson, the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center in Cookeville. "It's a really difficult process for the kids that come here, they have suffered some severe trauma," explained Jennifer Wilkerson, the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center in Cookeville.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

CROSSVILLE (WATE) - The newest member of the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office may not have a law degree, but he is expected to make a huge difference in the courthouse.

The two-year-old lab and golden retriever mix named Murch will be on duty in the Cumberland County Courthouse, as well as other courthouses in surrounding counties.

Murch is part of a larger effort to help victims going through the judicial process.

"It's a really difficult process for the kids that come here. They have suffered some severe trauma," explained Jennifer Wilkerson, the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center in Cookeville.

Wilkerson helps 1,000 children each year who have suffered severe sexual, physical and mental abuse.

The forensic interview room is filled with plush chairs, stuff animals and children's books to make it as welcoming as possible.

Now the staff has an extra way to help child victims.

"You can see as the children start to disclose or start to talk they are automatically drawn to pet the dog," she explained.

As the children make their way to court, the witness stand can be a terrifying place.

"It's very hard for them to go into court, and have a courtroom full of people and talk about the things that have happened to them," Wilkerson said.

Murch will provide the same comfort in the courtroom and District Attorney General Randy York said they were inspired by one case in particular.

"We were trying a case where to little girls, ages six and eight, who were molested by their father. And they were having a really difficult time in the courtroom," General York recalled.

Courthouse staff realized something as simple as a dog could help put the victims at ease.

The 13th District is only the second one in the state to provide this service.

"If we can provide comfort and security to a child during the worst part of that child's young life then that's what we need to do," York said.

Murch will sit under the witness stand, trained to stay still and provide comfort.

"It's something to give them added strength," explained York.

Murch won't just be used by the prosecution, but for any witness taking the stand during a difficult situation.

"The dog doesn't care about who wins or who loses. The dog's there to provide people with comfort and security," he said.

Wilkerson will be Murch's handler, living with her and going with her everywhere.

"When I go to meetings, he goes to meeting," she explained.

With two years of training under his belt, Murch is suited up and ready to serve the people of East and Middle Tennessee.

"Our number one goal is for these kids to be safe and be healthy," Wilkerson explained. "We want them to be able to come in and find that comfort and begin that healing process in order for them to go on with their lives."

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.