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Social and Psychological Issues: What Are the Main Issues/Causes and Manifestation of Stress Amongst Jurors, Including the Prevalence?

NCJ Number
Tim McGrath; Siobhan Ryan
Date Published
June 2004
7 pages
This conference paper reviews studies on the main issues/causes, prevalence, and manifestation of stress among jurors.
An Australian study and a New Zealand study have both highlighted jury interpersonal dynamics and individual concerns as contributing to stress among jurors. These include the capitulating, uninterested, or "slow" juror; the bullying juror; the selection of the foreperson; understanding the law, jury instructions, and definitions; young jurors' lack of life experiences; personality clashes among jurors; poor comprehension of English; and occupational and personal problems related to jury service. Individual concerns have included disturbing case facts, reluctance to return a verdict that carries a prison sentence, unpredictability and lack of control, accommodation conditions, and responsibility for a verdict. An Australian survey of a sample of jurors included a question about jurors' perceptions of personal safety and the usefulness of juror counseling after discharge. Approximately 10 percent of the jurors felt unsafe at times, and most felt that counseling should be provided for those jurors who have problems related to jury service. Some of the symptoms of stress most often reported by jurors are anxiety for the victim and/or accused and their families, sleep problems, physical complaints, social distress, sexual difficulties, and concerns about sentencing and other legal outcomes. Recent studies have compared juror psychological effects to those of posttraumatic stress disorder. Research findings from the United States and the peripheral findings from Australia and New Zealand suggest it is time for Australia to consider juror stress as significant and prevalent. 30 references