The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced Friday that ‘Murphy,’ who served as the office’s Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) comfort dog for many years, has passed away.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg grew up in the area and lives in Normandy Park.

“Murphy was always a friendly face for witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, families, court staff, doctors and professionals at Harborview Medical Center,” the office said in a statement.

“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.”

Murphy belonged to Anne Mizuta, who is a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and the ITA supervisor. Anne trained Murphy to do his job for the community.

Here’s an testimonial from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jocelyn McCurtain, who worked with Murphy on multiple occasions:

“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. I can think of numerous examples of Murphy’s work in ITA, however, I will highlight two. First, I 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. Murphy calmly sat and let her pet him, let her rest her hand on him and hug him. He was calm, patient, and simply laid there providing her comfort. Second, there are many times where children have to come in with their parents due to lack of childcare coverage. On one occasion, a young child was brought in with her parents. The child was scared to be in a hospital setting and restless due to the amount of time she was required to sit at the hospital. Murphy came out and sat with her. This alleviated not only the anxiousness of the child, but the additional stress placed on the family that had been watching her.”

ITA Court provides services to mentally ill individuals who are suicidal, homicidal and gravely disabled. In order to provide these patients with the appropriate level of care, PAO prosecutors are required to present evidence for the Court’s consideration to hold them in the hospital setting. Our 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.

An integral part of the work of ITA prosecutors is to make witnesses that come to Harborview for ITA hearings feel comfortable, cared for and listened to. These witnesses are often stressed and upset with what their family members, friends, loved ones and community members are going through. To lower this stress, and to provide a calmer environment and help individuals through this difficult time, the PAO’s ITA team implemented the use of a court comfort dog – Murphy.

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, and since then there are now 100+ courthouse dogs across the United States and the concept is expanding to other countries worldwide.

R.I.P. Murphy!
 

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Scott Schaefer

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