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Parrot Evidence Rule, Like Parol Evidence Rule, but for Crime

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By George Khoury, Esq. on July 26, 2017 12:15 PM

Not many lawyers ever actually get to grapple with the great legal conundrum of the Parrot Evidence Rule. Surprisingly, it's somewhat similar to the Parol Evidence Rule, apart from the easy to forget part. But rather than dealing with extrinsic evidence of contract terms, it deals with the unverifiable ramblings of birds that can mimic speech. (Note: this may be the first ever definition, albeit unofficial, of the rule since my fellow FindLaw writer Chris Coble coined it, so strap in, folks).

Recently, a murdered man's parrot has been center stage in the media due to the bird's rather apropos exclamation "Don't f****n shoot!" While the bird never made it to the courtroom, the statement was considered as evidence, just not in court. Notably, commentators are crediting the bird with helping police piece together the murder, but all things considered, that might just be a cute gesture.

Parrot Evidence Rule

It's really easy to remember the Parrot Evidence Rule, ready? Animals, other than humans, and even ones that can mimic speech and sound like humans, cannot testify in court. However, like any good rule, there are exceptions.

Sometimes a bird might be able to provide evidence, or maybe just probable cause, to a police officer. Also, it's not out of the question for a bird's mimicked speech to be introduced through another person's testimony, but actually bringing the bird to court might be too theatrical.

No, Animals Cannot Testify, Yet ...

If you need more proof, just think of Lassie, and all the stories of animals that get help for their owners. If a dog gets help, the person who the dog sought out can testify that the dog sought them out. However, as for a dog barking at a suspect from behind the witness stand, though it happened once, in France, the judge ruled it was a total failure.

However, if you've read stories about primates that have been taught to sign, it seems like only a matter of time before a case comes along to test the Parrot Evidence Rule and perhaps set forth a "primate sign language" exception and test.

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