Whoda thunk it?
Jurors' stress could sway Pickton verdict. SFU study shows tension builds as deliberations go on
Elaine O'Connor, CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, December 06, 2007
VANCOUVER -- As public anticipation mounts for a verdict in the Robert Pickton murder trial, the stress level for the jury may also be on the rise.
A study of former B.C. jurors found that many suffered from stress and that stress during deliberations sometimes interfered with their judgments, according to Simon Fraser University psychology lecturer V. Gordon Rose.
"Some of [those studied] reported symptoms which were similar to some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder ... such as intrusive thoughts, difficulty sleeping and so on," said Rose, citing a study he worked on with former Simon Fraser doctoral student Sonia Chopra.
Some of the people we spoke to felt that stress interfered with their thought processes and deliberation. Many of them felt that stress had interfered with other jurors' thinking."
The very nature of the deliberation process can trigger tension, Rose explained.
"You're in a room with ... relative strangers. It's a very contentious sort of situation. People are arguing. People are disagreeing. People who might not be used to speaking in public are required to defend their positions. And, occasionally, things get quite acrimonious."
Rose's study of about 60 former B.C. jurors also found that few understand the legal importance of their task.
"In our lab, and around the world in all the published research, it is clear that jurors do not understand the legal instructions the judge gives them to any adequate standard," said Rose, who specializes in jury comprehension issues.
"Juries in real criminal trials do not understand most of the instructions the judge gives them on the law. Either they don't realize that they don't understand, or often, I think, they don't see the instructions of the law as being important to their task. In other words, the legal system assumes that they are finding facts and then applying the law to those facts. What the jurors think they are doing is solving a whodunit."
Jurors' stress doesn't end after the verdict is delivered, either.
Because of Canadian laws forbidding them from discussing their experiences, jurors can suffer from their inability to "talk through" what they saw and heard, Rose said.
"Jurors are not allowed to talk even to their doctor or psychiatrist about what went on during deliberations," Rose said.
"And if you are not legally permitted to talk about the things that gave rise to the problems, I think it probably interferes with treatment."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
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Thread: Stressful Jury Duty?
12-06-2007, 01:50 PM #1
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12-06-2007, 05:16 PM #2
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