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Juror Stress: Sources and Implications

NCJ Number
Trial Volume: 30 Issue: 10 Dated: (October 1994) Pages: 68-72
T L Hafemeister; W L Ventis
Date Published
5 pages
Research on the stress experienced by jurors suggests that juror stress is widespread and that several factors may account for the stress.
The research reveals that jurors tend to take their responsibilities very seriously, and they make decisions that greatly affect other people's lives. A survey of 50 jurors who had served on high-profile cases in 1992, including the Rodney King beating trial, the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, and the murder trial of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, revealed that 62 percent said that they experienced stress from their jury service. A mailed survey of 312 jurors in Dallas concluded that jurors serving on traumatic trials were almost six times more likely to have symptoms associated with depression than jurors serving on nontraumatic trials. The National Center for State Courts recently tested a method in two Maryland courts to assess and respond to juror stress in two high-profile murder trials. Questionnaires and debriefings revealed secondary trauma, an empathic reaction felt by people in response to trauma experienced by another. However, few reports exist of juror stress. Variables such as media coverage, the increase in jury trials centering on violent acts, and the long time periods when jurors are prohibited from discussing a trial, and the increasingly graphic methods of presenting evidence may be among the sources of stress. Although courts and litigants may be able to take steps to relieve stress, more systematic analysis of this issues is needed to determine the appropriate response. 23 references