How many of us have received that notice in the mail summoning us to jury duty and have sat for perhaps an entire day waiting to be called? Then, when it’s almost the end of the court’s work day, we are thanked and dismissed for another several years. At least that’s been my experience, but I know that for some who are called and who serve on a jury, it’s a totally different story.
Now, the trauma that is experienced by jurors and the price some pay for their service is being recognized by at least one state, Texas. Legislation, which would provide counseling for jurors or alternates after trials that are particularly disturbing or horrific, is currently being considered. The idea came from one victim’s mother who thought not of herself, but of the men and women who served on the jury that heard the murder case of her deceased daughter.
Some judges, in their wisdom, have elected to make mental health experts available for jurors in high-profile traumatic trials, but it hasn’t become law in any state, as I know it.
Do jurors suffer trauma? I don’t think there’s any question about it, just as there’s no question that being in a war zone, suffering through the aftermath of a natural disaster or seeing a murder results in trauma that can be long-lasting. We call the disorder PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because it isn’t apparent immediately and may take months or, in some case, longer for the symptoms to appear. But the connection between both experiencing a trauma and viewing it second-hand can certainly be made because it’s the emotion that is experienced which causes the disorder.
Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new compassionate understanding of juror trauma.