Can a Parrot Be a Witness in a Court Case?
In a recent NY Mag article, the writer calls out a case where a parrot Echo was in a sort of witness protection program for animals. Apparently Echo, along with other parrots in legal history, saw too much and was called to act as a witness in a court of law in case involving a violent crime. With the legality of a parrot as a witness highly questionable, Attorney Moynahan wanted to provide some thoughts on the matter. Echo’s story forms the backbone of Laurel Braitman’s fascinating Digg/Atlas Obscura chronicle of not just Echo but other animals called to testify against alleged criminals (the Atlas Obscura version is here).
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Attorney Tim Moynahan’s Reaction
..if a drug sniffing dog points to an area where drugs are found the dogs actions, visible and/or recorded are admissible even though he is an animal.
A parrot is an animal so that fact should not preclude his testimony but there is the hearsay rule not the see see rule, so what is heard out of court and reported by a hearer is admissible only under certain exceptions to the aforementioned hearsay rule….why should the parrots utterance be admissible where identical utterances from a person would not be…the parrot cannot be cross examined, ordinarily fatal to admissibility. Can’t determine whether the parrot knew right from wrong? Should exclude.
We know what the Parrott said and repeated many times, what we don’t know are the indicia of reliability which persuaded the court to conclude that in the context of all the circumstances the Parrots words should be admitted presumably instructing the jury to listen to them a evidence but to evaluate them critically along with all the other evidence and give them the weight, if any, the jury determined was deserved.
If the State couldn’t get a conviction on the evidence without the parrots testimony should it get it with the aid of an unexamined witness? Is that a bar too low. Can an expert say, can anyone why the interpretation of the words as incriminating is the only plausible one or is there another or others? If so, and I assume there must be , then any is, and the evidence should be excluded.
Timothy C. Moynahan is the CEO and owner of Moynahan Partners, which offers business development consultancy, identifying strategic business partnerships and funding sources. He founded and heads the Moynahan Law Firm, Waterbury, Connecticut. He is a sought-after and successful trial lawyer, earning the Super Lawyer of New England and Connecticut awards from 2009 to 2012 and Best Criminal Defense Attorney accolade in 2013.