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JUROR STRESS: WHAT BURDEN HAVE WE PLACED ON OUR JURIES?

NCJ Number
141694
Journal
State Court Journal Volume: 16 Issue: 4 Dated: (Fall 1992) Pages: 35-46
Author(s)
T L Hafemeister; W L Ventis
Date Published
1992
Length
12 pages
Annotation
Efforts are needed to address juror stress, because many jurors, particularly those involved in trials for serious crimes, experience significant stress long after the trial is over.
Abstract
Their symptoms have included insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, stomach distress, nervousness, irritability, lack of concentration, problems in interpersonal relations, extreme moodiness and mood swings, headaches, heart palpitation, depression, crying, numbness, and posttraumatic stress disorder. If this stress is not addressed, it has the potential for both increasing the unwillingness of individuals to serve as jurors and affecting the way they fulfill their duties fairly and impartially. Recent cases that resulted in juror stress included that of child murderer Westley Allan Dodd, the case in which 27 people were killed when a pickup truck collided with a school bus, a trial involving a cult leader and followers, the trial of Jeffrey Dahmer, and the case involving Rodney King. Secondary trauma has been well documented among people such as emergency workers, but few systematic studies have been conducted regarding the stress experienced by jurors. Kaplan and Winget interviewed 40 jurors several trials involving serious crimes and found that 27 jurors had physical or psychological stress symptoms, especially sleeplessness, and that significant illnesses developed in seven jurors. The main response to perceived juror stress is self-help efforts by jurors themselves. Some judges have also decided that jury debriefings by mental health professionals would be helpful. A third approach is to show jurors a videotape after jury duty that prepares them for possible manifestations of stress. Further research is needed to address many unresolved issues related to this topic. 90 reference notes