Description: Consider this quote…“Be careful about the use of alcohol, or caffeine and tobacco or drugs to help you during this coping process,” Who, or rather, what sort of person makes this sort of statement, to whom, and it what context? Could it be a councilor speaking to military personally returning from duty in a conflict zone such as Afghanistan? Could it be advice offered by police services to teachers and administrative staff at a school where a shooting has occurred? Could it be advice offered by an emergency room physician to passengers or others who witnessed a terrible traffic collision? Well it could, indeed, be any one or all of those but it was not. In fact the line is a quote from advice offered by the presiding judge to jurors in a recent gruesome murder trial in Calgary. The judge was speaking to jurors before releasing them to go home for a long weekend in the middle of the trial and just after he had reminded them to that there were not to speak of the trial to anyone over the weekend. Would it surprise you to hear that ALL of the situations noted above can be associated with signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among those who experience them? There are three links below that provide you with more information about this issue. One is the full text of the judge’s statement to the Garland trial jurors, one is a piece written by Patrick Baille a forensic Psychologist and lawyer reflecting on the stresses experienced by the Garland trial jurors and the third is a video documentary made by CBC News about PTSD and juror stress.
Source: Baillie: Jurors hearing Garland murder trial deserve our support and understanding, Dr. Patrick Baille, Calgary Herald.
Date: February 10 and 15, 2017
Photo Credit: CBC News
Judge’s Advice to Garland trial jury prior to long weekend trial recess: https://www.pressreader.com/canada/calgary-herald/20170210/281560880539687
Perhaps it no longer seems surprising that PTSD symptoms can arise for people serving on juries. Patrick Baille discussed both Canadian and American research on jury stress. He noted that in Canada jurists are forbidden to ever speak about the deliberations of the jury on which they sat. This requirement also applies when a stressed juror is speaking to a psychotherapist. Psychologists who treat jurors must be aware of this in meetings with their clients though it is usually the materials and accounts of the crimes for which the accused are on trial that present to most stressful experiences and those, and the emotions and thoughts they give rise to can be discussed. Baille clearly lays out what he sees as steps our justice system should consider if we are to directly and effectively address the possibility of PTSD symptoms and incidences among jurors in high profile cases involving depictions, accounts, and physical evidence associated with grisly events being considered in during such trials. Doing one’s civic duty and serving on jury should not come with significant negative impacts upon the life and mental wellbeing of those jurors required to be part of the justice process.
Questions for Discussion:
- How can jury duty be similar to military combat service or witnessing or experiencing a collision or a natural disaster?
- What sorts of approaches towards support or treatment should be considered for jurors in participating in trials involving gruesome evidence?
- How should the approaches you indicated in response to the question above be funded? I.e., who should pay for them?
References (Read Further):
Bienen, L. B. (1992). Helping jurors out: Post-verdict debriefing for jurors in emotionally distrubing trials. Ind. LJ, 68, 1333. http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1568&context=ilj
Lonergan, M., Leclerc, M. È., Descamps, M., Pigeon, S., & Brunet, A. (2016). Prevalence and severity of trauma-and stressor-related symptoms among jurors: A review. Journal of Criminal Justice, 47, 51-61. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alain_Brunet2/publication/305681372_Prevalence_and_severity_of_trauma-_and_stressor-related_symptoms_among_jurors_A_revew/links/579fc35a08ae94f454e7c1b5.pdf
Ferguson, A.G. (2015) The Trauma of Jury Duty, The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/05/the-trauma-of-jury-duty/393479/