uncomfortable or confusing event.225 Despite the benefits of this practice, anatomical dolls and
diagrams have not received enough positive support in research to make them a common practice
in the courtroom.
G. Comfort Items
Allowing comfort items on the stand during the testimony of a child witness does not seem
to be a novel practice; however, research and statutes are limited in this area. Attorneys may
dispute whether a child is allowed to take a favorite stuffed animal on the stand during their court
appearance. The topic of comfort items is not specifically addressed in federal legislation but
support for the practice is prevalent among prosecutors who try to assist child witnesses overcome
their fears of testifying.226 Comfort items aim to provide relief to child witnesses in a potentially
traumatizing situation, however, prosecution should not use them to generate sympathy from the
In the last several years, dogs have been used to comfort distraught witnesses.227 This
practice is controversial because of possible infringement of the rights of the defendant.228
Presently, allowing dogs and other comfort items is decided in local courts at the discretion of the
court.229 Most recently, the Supreme Court of Washington allowed a comfort dog during testimony
of a fifty-six year old witness who suffered from multiple developmental disabilities.230
As of June 2011, only five states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, and Missouri) had
explicit statutes governing the allowance of comfort items for child victims and witnesses during
courtroom testimony, as discussed in Table 8 of the appendix. However, these five statutes, with
one exception, are vague. Arkansas allows the prosecutor to file a motion for the court to allow a
comfort item during the child’s testimony.231 Florida does not mention an item per se, but provides
for the use of a service animal to provide the child with emotional support.232 California does not
specifically mention a comfort item, but allows judges to remove their robes during trial if such
attire is intimidating to the child.233
Missouri has the most thorough statute on the use of comfort items. It provides that the
child is allowed to have a “toy, blanket, or similar item” while testifying, pending a motion filed
at least thirty days prior to the hearing.234 The item will only be allowed if all parties agree; the
child will not be able to testify without the item; and the item does not serve to garner sympathy
from or influence the presiding judge or jury. 235
Upon motion made by the child, his or her representative, or any party to the judicial
proceeding, at least thirty days in advance of the judicial proceeding, the court may
225CECI & BRUCK, supra note 6, at 178.
226Major Bradley M. Cowan, Children in the Courtroom: Essential Strategies for Effective Testimony by Child Victims
of Sexual Abuse, THE ARMY LAW. 4, 10 (2013).
227Marianne Dellinger, Using Dogs for Emotional Support of Testifying Victims of Crime, 15 ANIMAL L. 171, 174
228Id. at 182.
229Id. at 181.
230State v. Dye, 309 P.3d 1192, 1199 (Wash. 2013).
231ARK. CODE ANN. § 16-43-1202 (West 2015).
232FLA. STAT. ANN. § 92.55 (West 2015).
233CAL. PENAL CODE § 868.8 (West 2015).
234MO. ANN. STAT. § 491.725 (West 2015).