BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - An emotional support dog with a Louisiana District Attorney's Office will accompany a 8-year-old girl while she testifies at the trial of her accused rapist.
Judge Beau Higginbotham ruled Thursday that Diesel, a 4-year-old Labrador and golden retriever mix, will be allowed to sit with the girl during a jury trial in the 19th Judicial District next month, The Advocate reported.
This would be Diesel's first jury trial. He previously sat in East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court during a sex crime case involving a juvenile defendant and a child victim.
The girl is to testify during the trial of Anthony James Tipton, 32, who is accused of raping the girl in 2015 and 2016. Tipton was charged with first-degree rape, sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile.
Tipton's attorney Steven Moore argued that the dog would be a distraction to the child and the jury. He said jurors would naturally be inclined to sympathize with the girl if they saw a dog sitting by her side.
Diesel's handler, sex crimes prosecutor Louise Hines, said Diesel is trained to be quiet and unobtrusive."Sometimes he falls asleep and snores," she said of the dog.
Higginbotham ordered that a barrier be used to prevent the jury from seeing the dog from under the witness stand. He also said the dog will be in place and hidden before jurors arrive and will remain there until the jury exits the room.
The trial begins March 16. Tipton faces a mandatory life sentence in prison if found guilty of rape.