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@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.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

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Gov. Jay Inslee joined other governors at the Climate Registry & Climate Action Reserve press conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to talk about climate achievements and goals. From left, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Gov. Jay Inslee and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Jay Inslee)
Inslee: State agency vehicles must be all-electric by 2035

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed an executive order aimed at transitioning state… Continue reading

courtesy of PropertyShark
State’s richest zip codes are all in East King County, according to home value study

Medina zip code ranks among top 10 most affluent in the nation.

Stock photo
State’s pediatric flu vaccinations down about 25% from this time last year

Health officials say sharp decline in childhood flu vaccination rates is concerning

Stock photo
Seattle-area pair indicted for defrauding COVID-19 benefit programs

Amount exceeds $1 million; including $500,000 from state Employment Security Department

File photo.
Global health experts weigh-in on putting the pandemic behind us

Pharmaceutical companies will have to waive patent rights to address vaccine disparities, they say.

Stock photo
New timeline of summer 2022 for opening HOV lanes through Tacoma

I-5 traffic often backed up both directions near project

Kim Wyman. COURTESY PHOTO, state Secretary of State Office
Washington secretary of state gets federal job

Kim Wyman taking job with Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Google Images
Racial disparities in bike helmet law forces decision by King County health board

On Oct. 21, the King County Board of Health discussed striking down… Continue reading

Courtesy Photo, Public Health — Seattle King County
King County to require vaccination proof at certain events, businesses

Begins Oct. 25 at restaurants, bars, indoor recreational events