King County Courthouse comfort dog dies

King County’s ITA courthouse comfort dog, Murphy. Courtesy photo

King County’s ITA courthouse comfort dog, Murphy. Courtesy photo

King County’s first Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) courthouse comfort dog has died, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced on Nov. 12.

Murphy, a mixed breed rescue, served as an ITA comfort dog for many years. ITA Court provides services to mentally ill individuals who are suicidal, homicidal and gravely disabled.

Murphy was always a friendly face for witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, families, court staff, doctors and professionals at Harborview Medical Center, according to a news release from the prosecuting attorney’s office.

“Murphy was a very good dog; he faithfully, patiently, and effectively served our community for many years,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. “We thank him for that service. He will be so missed.”

Anne Mizuta, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney and the ITA supervisor, was Murphy’s owner and trained him to fulfill his community job.

“I used Murphy on numerous occasions to calm my witness’s nerves so they could go before the court and present evidence to get an individual suffering from mental illness and in crisis the essential care they so desperately needed,” said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jocelyn McCurtain, who worked with Murphy on multiple occasions.

In one example, McCurtain brought Murphy in to sit with one witness who was terrified to testify about the everyday terror she experienced due to a neighbor who was in crisis at her apartment complex, she said.

“Murphy calmly sat and let her pet him, let her rest her hand on him and hug him,” McCurtain said. “He was calm, patient, and simply laid there providing her comfort.”

In order to provide ITA patients with the appropriate level of care, King County prosecutors are required to present evidence for the court’s consideration to hold them in the hospital setting.

King County’s ITA team meets with families and witnesses, both to prepare them for court appearances, but also to provide them with assurances that their loved ones are receiving the appropriate level of attention and care, according to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

It is the responsibility of ITA prosecutors to make witnesses that come to Harborview for ITA hearings feel comfortable, cared for and listened to, the office said.

“These witnesses are often stressed and upset with what their family members, friends, loved ones and community members are going through,” according to the office. “To lower this stress, and to provide a calmer environment and help individuals through this difficult time, the [prosecuting attorney’s office’s] ITA team implemented the use of a court comfort dog — Murphy.”

On several occasions, children may have to accompany their parents to court due to lack of childcare coverage. One time when parents brought in their child, feeling both fearful and restless sitting in the hospital for hours on end, Murphy came out and sat with her, McCurtain said. Murphy’s presence calmed the child down and alleviated the family’s stress.

Courthouse dogs are trained to assist people with mental disabilities, elderly individuals, teens and young children — essentially anyone who might find a dog comforting — as they are called upon to provide courtroom testimony or go through a witness interview.

King County had the nation’s first courthouse dog. Since then, there are now over 100 courthouse dogs in the United States and the resource is expanding to countries around the world.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

King County’s ITA courthouse comfort dog, Murphy. Courtesy photo

King County’s ITA courthouse comfort dog, Murphy. Courtesy photo

More in Northwest

Screenshot of April 5 Edmonds City Council meeting. Inset (L-R): Mayor Mike Nelson and council members Kristiana Johnson, Will Chen, Neil Tibbott, Diane Buckshnis, Vivian Olson, Susan Paine and Laura Johnson. (City of Edmonds)
After long debate, Edmonds bans homeless people from living outside

The criminal law is unenforceable if no shelter is open within 35 miles. The City Council approved it over public outcry.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Sound Publishing archives
Cannabis DUI challenge rejected by state Supreme Court

Everett man argued the law must be tossed because legal limit for THC is not supported by science.

Tsr
No more stolen sisters: How WA is responding to missing and murdered Indigenous people

Across the state, 126 Indigenous people remain missing, with 31 having gone missing in King County.

President Joe Biden. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Biden visits Seattle and Green River College during trip to Pacific Northwest

The president will stress infrastructure in Portland and Seattle while raising money for the Democratic Party.

The Sammamish Valley is home to a collection of farms, wineries and tasting rooms. File photo
The Sammamish Valley is home to a collection of farms, wineries and tasting rooms. File photo
King County continues to grapple with alcohol rules in rural areas

Much of the debate surrounds wineries, breweries and distilleries operating as retail businesses.

Teaser
How a Ukrainian and Russian couple escaped a war zone

“We will never forget that sound. Boom. Boom,” said Valeriia Horodnycha, who has been staying in Mercer Island.

Sunset at Mount Rainier. NPS
Mount Rainier park approves nine new lahar monitoring stations

The new monitors can give local communities up to 10 extra minutes to evacuate in case of a disaster.

Metro Creative Graphics Photo
Health board decides against COVID vaccine requirement for students

The state Board of Health wants to see more data for younger children.

Tulalip council members and tribal members watch as Governor Jay Inslee signs bill HB 1571 into law at the Tulalip Resort on Thursday, March 31, 2022 in Tulalip, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New alert system aims to bring home missing Indigenous people

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law creating the new system. Families of the missing and murdered say it’s a start.

File photo
Cannabis stakeholders want cash out of the equation amid rash of robberies

State regulators say action from Congress is required for cannabis industry to use credit cards.