His eyes wide, the district attorney stared at the machine near the witness stand rather than at the witness. It was a moment before he asked his next question. “May I call you Towser?”
“Thank you.” The DA responded, his eyes still fixed on the machine. “Mr—excuse me—Towser, how old are you?”
twelvebut eightyfour foryou
“You are not a…a juvenile then?”
“How long have you been with the defendant?” The DA gestured to the defense table where a man in his early twenties sat glaring in disbelief at the witness.
The witness met the defendant’s hard stare. His tail wagged.
The DA turned to the judge. “If it pleases the court, I take the witness’s response to mean that he has spent his entire life in the care of the defendant.”
“Objection,” the defense lawyer immediately interjected. “The court has allowed this witness to testify with the understanding that his own words as translated by that damn device will suffice. We should not allow the opposing counsel to tell us what the witness really means.”
“Sustained,” the judge replied and quickly added, “but the defense will not try to prejudice the jury by referring to the neuro-translator as ‘that damn device.’ It has a proven track record.”
“With dolphins and chimps,” the defense lawyer pressed. “There is no precedence in court with canines. We cannot believe what a dog ‘says’!”
The witness’s hackles rose and he growled.
careful careful notsay Ispeak youhear!
“Strike both the defense attorney’s comment and the witness’s response from the record,” the judge commanded the court recorder. “This point has been previously ruled on in pre-trial motions. I want to hear no more of it from defense counsel during these proceedings. Plead that case to the world media outside, but not in this courtroom. Prosecution, please continue.”
“Thank you, Your Honor.” The DA looked the witness truly in the eye for the first time. “And I apologize to you, Towser. Have you spent your entire life under the care of the defendant?”
“Has he mistreated you in anyway?”
The witness looked around the room, his tail wagging hard in the witness box specially constructed for the trial.
mymaster kindtome notkind tolady nicelady
“Towser!” the defendant barked. The witness froze.
The judge banged his gavel. “Another outburst like that, young man and I will find you in contempt of this court. Do you understand?”
The defendant nodded, his eyes fixed and defiant on the witness
The DA stepped between their line of vision and patted the witness’s head. “Are you ready to go on?”
“When you say the ‘nice lady’ are you referring to the victim?”
“Please tell the court your account of what happened on the night the ‘nice lady’ came to your master’s house and was found dead the next morning?”
The witness’s tail beat against the rail of the box.
nicelady bringtreat smellstrange masteryell masteryell mylady…
The neuro-translator failed. The witness barked on. The judge banged his gavel again to try to restore order. The DA stroked the witness’s back. The defendant leaned back in his chair with a thin smile
“What’s wrong with the machine?” The judge demanded of the court clerk.
The clerk summoned a technician seated in the back row of the courtroom. He hurried to the device and began fiddling with the touchscreen interface.
The DA settled the witness down. The courtroom quieted as the technician worked. Time ticked by. He finally shrugged and slapped the top of the device. “Don’t know what happened to the doggone thing.”
The witness bared his teeth and howled. The judge began banging his gavel.
The defendant let out a high pitched whistle and the witness quieted. “Good boy. Good boy,” the defendant repeated, until the witness suddenly leapt from the stand, bound onto the defense table and took his master by the throat.
The court was in such an uproar that no one heard a last squawk from the device.