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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF RANKIN COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
VS CAUSE NO. 3610
JIMMY TATUM DEFENDANT


TRANSCRIPT OF A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDINGS HAD AND DONE IN THE TRIAL IN THE ABOVE STYLED AND NUMBERED CAUSE BEFORE THE HONORABLE ROBERT L. GOZA, CIRCUIT JUDGE OF THE TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT, ON THE 27TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 1992.




APPEARANCES:

Present and Representing the State:

Honorable Jim Kelly, Honorable Rick Mitchell
Assistant District Attorneys
Rankin and Madison Counties

Present and Representing the Defendant:

Honorable John Robbins
Attorney at Law
Brandon, Ms 39042

OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF THE JURY:

BY THE COURT: The child will be the next witness. I intend to voirdire her out of the presence of the jury on her appreciation of the oath and duty to tell the truth and that sort of thing to determine whether or not because of her age she is a competent witness in the case. It is also my understanding that the State wishes to bring the dog Vachss in here to accompany her during her testimony. If you have any objection to the animal being brought around here.

BY MR. ROBBINS: Yes sir, we do, Your Honor.

BY THE COURT: State your objection for the record.

BY MR. ROBBINS: We would object in that if this were a seeing eye dog or some type necessary animal for someone to use for one of their senses then we would not object, but in this particular instance it is not that reason and therefore we would object to bringing the dog in the courtroom.

BY THE COURT: Develop two points for me for the record. First, tell me how your client is prejudiced by the dog being present, and second, tell me what you contend the difference to be between the dog accompanying the child for the purpose of giving her some sort of security and comfort and me permitting the child to bring a favorite doll or teddy bear to hold during her testimony. Distinguish those for the record for me please.

BY MR. ROBBINS: There is a vast difference, taking number two first, between a ninety pound animal or some large number of pounds, and a teddy bear.

BY THE COURT: How is it different in principal though?

BY MR. ROBBINS: Taking number two first, there is a vast difference between a ninety pound animal or some large number of pounds and a teddy bear which is something a child could hold in its arms. The dog is impressive nonetheless by its size. The child does not appear in any way to need any comfort. However if she wishes to have a teddy bear, certainly we wouldn't object to a teddy bear being brought in for the child. And as far as prejudice to my client is concerned, this is the prosecution's witness and she is suppose to be on the stand by herself and not with any help or aid. If he were to take the stand the Court wouldn't allow him any help or aid to be up there unless he was blind or deaf or something of that nature and there is nothing that appears to be wrong with this child. She seems to be a perfectly normal little girl. And for that reason we would say that certainly he is being prejudiced by having the affiant on the stand with the entourage that she has.

BY THE COURT: What type bonding process has there been between Vachss and the little girl?

BY MR. MITCHELL: Kathy Meeks is going to be testifying shortly and has a vast knowledge on that, I believe, that the dog is owned by the Children's Advocacy Center in Jackson. That is where the little girl has had sessions. It is my understanding that on almost all occasions when the little girl has gone to the Advocacy Center to speak with the Doctor the dog has been there. Doctor Meeks will testify that she and the dog get along. She has developed a bond with that dog, she gets comfortable with the dog being there. If for some reason someone else such as an adult might need a dog to get up there I don't believe the State would object to that. If that is the contention of Mr. Robbins, if his witness needs some assistance such as an animal up there I don't think the State is going to object. In addition to that I believe Mr. Robbins made an opening statement to the jury that he had no objection at that time. I told them that there was going to be a dog. He said if she needed a dog he wanted a dog up there.

BY THE COURT: All right, I don't see that the presence of the dog has any prejudicial effect on Mr. Tatum's rights in this case and I do see that it could assist the child in giving her testimony. Now it won't be necessary for anybody to remain in the courtroom with Vachss. I mean there is one thing in having Vachss in the courtroom and it is quite another thing having Vachss and Vachss' trainer in the courtroom.

BY MR. MITCHELL: You might have to ask the handler. He might be best to answer that. I think the only reason we have Doctor Hawthorne here, in case Vachss decides to get up and do something. There is not going to be any contact with the dog as long as the dog lays there, it is my understanding. You might want to ask ...

BY THE COURT: Doctor Hawthorne?

BY DR. HAWTHORNE: Sometimes it gets too hot under there and he decides to come out. Before, I think, Judge Smith had me here in case anybody was worried about him wandering out.

BY THE COURT: Vachss is not a vicious animal, I suppose. What I am going to ask you to do, Doctor Hawthorne, is to sit back over there before we bring the jury back. Ask DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM to come back in.

BY THE COURT: Hello. I need to talk to you just a moment. What is your name?

A. DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM.

BY THE COURT: How old are you DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM?

A. Seven.

BY THE COURT: When is your birthday?

A. DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM.

BY THE COURT: And do you go to school?

A. DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM.

BY THE COURT: What grade are you in?

A. Second.

BY THE COURT: You started to school last year and this is your second year?

A. Yes.

BY THE COURT: Have you passed everything and have you got good grades?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: Do you belong to a Church, do you go to Sunday School?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: Do you know where we are and what we are doing here, what kind of room we are in?

A. Yes, sir, it is a courtroom.

BY THE COURT: Do you know what kind of chair you are sitting in?

A. A witness chair.

BY THE COURT: And do you know these men sitting over here are with the District Attorney's office and that Mr. Robbins is Mr. Tatum's attorney and that Mr. Tatum is on trial, do you know that?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: And do you know who sits over there in that box?

A. The jury.

BY THE COURT: Do you understand what an oath to tell the truth is?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: What is it?

A. I don't really know.

BY THE COURT: Do you know the difference between telling the truth or telling a story or something that is not true?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: And do you know which is best?

A. To tell the truth.

BY THE COURT: Why, what happens to you if you don't tell the truth, do you know that?

A. You will get in trouble.

BY THE COURT: And you know that the oath is the oath you take to God to tell the truth?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: How does God feel about people that tell the truth?

A. He feels really proud of them.

BY THE COURT: And how does he feel about people who don't?

A. Really bad.

BY THE COURT: And how do you want God to feel about you?

A. Really proud.

BY THE COURT: DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM, Vachss, the German Shepherd dog is there in the witness chair with you. How do you feel about Vachss?

A. Safe.

BY THE COURT: You like him, you want him to be with you in the witness box while you testify?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: You think that will make you feel secure?

A. Yes, sir.

BY THE COURT: Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Robbins, do you have any questions you want to ask?

BY ALL COUNSEL: None, Your Honor.

BY THE COURT: All right gentlemen, I find that Ms. DELETED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM is competent to testify in this case and that it is in the best interest of justice that Vachss be permitted to occupy the witness box with her while she does so. Is the dog's name Vacks?

BY MS. HAWTHORNE: V-a-c-h-s-s.

BY THE COURT: What kind of name is that?

BY MS. HAWTHORNE: That was the owner's . . . a lawyer in New York City, Andrew Vachss, donated the dog to the center.

BY THE COURT: Oh, I see. That is quite an honor to have a dog like that named after you. Ask the jury to come in.

**HEREIN TRIAL RESUMES**



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