Mark Robertson

Mark Robertson

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This new court advocate seems to like getting a pat on the head!

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is proud to announce our new canine court advocate Jellybean. She is a half black Labrador and half Golden Retriever. Prosecutor Kym Worthy has long had the goal of adding a special victim advocate with four paws to our Victims' Advocates Unit to serve child and adult victims and witnesses when they participate in a court case.

In Michigan all canine advocates, including Jellybean, come from the Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, MI. They go through two years of intensive obedience training and service training.

In February 2023, Mark Hindelang, WCPO's Chief of Information and Technology, along with his wife and three sons adopted Jellybean. She comes to work with Mark every day. Once at work, Jellybean leads the way to her handler, Child Advocate Jamie Buchholtz. When her tail slows down to a manageable wag, Jellybean dons her neckerchief and begins her workday. She meets with victims and walks them to court. With a silent look and maybe a small pat she helps to assuage the anxiety of child and adult victims and witnesses.

Once she was assigned to WCPO, Dan Cojanu, head of the CAP program, who is now retired, met with Mark, Jamie, and Jellybean to provide instruction for Jellybean to be a canine advocate. In order to become "certified" as a canine advocate, Jellybean was required to have six weeks of training. She must not react to courtroom distractions, needs to be able to walk on a lead without pulling, and to remain in a "sit/stay" position while her handler moves out of her sight range. During her training, Wayne County Court Services provided an empty courtroom so that mock trials could be conducted with WCPO volunteers. This assured that she would get used to the noises and movement associated with being in court.

We are thrilled that Jellybean passed with flying colors in April and has been certified ever since. Jaimie continues to train her twice a week as her schedule allows to keep Jellybean in practice.

Michigan Statute M.C.L. 600.2163 (a) allows Jellybean to be in court whenever there is a child victim testifying who is under the age of 16. That doesn't mean, however, that she can only be involved with cases involving children. She has not yet been involved in a trial, but Jellybean has been present for many pretrial interviews with victims of all ages. She has been present in interviews with child victims, adult victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and is requested for witnesses of homicides. She does not need to be present in the courtroom to be a benefit to victims and witnesses.

"The effect Jellybean has on nervous or vulnerable victims really needs to be seen to be believed. She has a calming effect on nervous children and adults who must come to court to discuss difficult facts," said Child Advocate Jamie Buchholtz.

It is important to note that Jellybean is a service dog, she is not an office therapy dog. The biggest difference is that a service dog is present only for victims and witnesses of crime. She is a working dog, and our staff is trained to respect her role in the office.

"I have wanted to have a canine advocate for years, but several things must come together for this to happen. I am so pleased that Mark and Jamie have shown such commitment and dedication to provide our crime victims with an exceptional new advocate. Jellybean's contribution has already been invaluable. She is helping to soothe children and adults who are faced with a difficult and unusual situation. We look forward to her service for years to come." said Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

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