Bosma juror describes difficult road back to everyday life
Jury sat through months of graphic testimony with only one another for emotional support
THE TIM BOSMA MURDER trial has been over for about a month now, but for at least one juror, it has been a challenging transition back to normal life.
Juror No. 4 — who was excused for a family obligation just before deliberations began — spoke to the Spectator about her experiences in the lengthy, first-degree murder trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.
She has asked to remain nameless. She similarly asks that her job — and even the obligation she was excused for — not be disclosed.
Her anxiety around the case is palpable. And it is understandable, after spending four months in a courtroom listening to graphic testimony about a horrific murder — especially given the lack of emotional or psychological supports available to jurors after such lengthy trials.
“They just thank you and you’re on your way,” she says with a shrug, sitting at her kitchen table.
But it has stuck with her. Even today she will see a black pickup truck or a trailer on the road and
be instantly reminded of the trial.
And the bones. She can still picture Bosma’s mother Mary running out in tears after photos of fragments of her son’s bones were displayed on screens around the courtroom. As a mother, she says, she can’t imagine having to go through that. “It does consume you,” she says. The 55-year-old woman says she knew it would be a long haul when she was picked from the jury pool back in January. She remembers leaving the courthouse and thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Sixteen jurors were selected: 14 who would sit for the duration of the trial, and two alternates who were released as soon as it officially began.
For months, the jury took in evidence and testimony from close to 100 witnesses on the murder of Bosma, the 32-year-old Ancaster dad who was killed in May 2013 after taking two men for a test drive of the pickup truck he was selling online.
Millard, 30, and Smich, 28 — who were each eventually convicted of first-degree murder — also sat in the courtroom each day of the trial.
The combination of the grieving Bosma family, the graphic evidence, and the responsibility of determining the two accused men’s fates weighed heavily on her throughout the trial, the juror says.
“Their future is in your hands. You have to decide what’s going to happen to these two men at the end.”
But when jurors went home each day, they couldn’t talk to anyone about the proceedings — not even their families.
“You’re really on your own … except for the other people on the jury,” she says.
While she was grateful for the support they gave one another, this juror says she wishes they had been offered some kind of counselling, particularly after intense days of testimony.
“If you’re maybe not sleeping well or you’re having headaches because of what’s going on, it’s like ‘Well, I just have to deal with it and move on.’”
Brendan Crawley, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, acknowledged the lengthy trial was “incredibly difficult” for everyone involved.
But counselling is made available to jurors only when ordered by a judge. Otherwise, Crawley says, “jurors may contact counselling service providers from their community.”
While juries fall under provincial jurisdiction, federal NDP justice critic Murray Rankin argues “that shouldn’t stop the federal government from taking some leadership.”
In the fall, he is going to ask the Committee of the House of Commons, of which he is a member, to study the issue.
No parliamentary committee has studied the issue, nor have any bills been introduced to remedy the lack of care for jurors after a difficult criminal trial. In 2009, the Department of Justice recognized a need, but failed to act on it, citing the need for studies.
Rankin says he became aware of the “gap” in care after being contacted by a Toronto man who was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder after serving on a first-degree murder trial jury.
“He said his life was destroyed,” says Rankin, who also closely followed the Bosma trial and says he couldn’t “imagine what it would be like to sit on that jury.”
Conscripted soldiers and jurors are the only two groups of citizens “compelled by the state to put themselves in harm’s way,” he says. And while a crisis in care has been identified for soldiers, little has been done for jurors. Victims of crime, witnesses, lawyers and judges all have access to support during and after a difficult trial.
“This is a mental health issue,” says Rankin. “And it’s another illustration of the stigma.”
The Bosma juror believes it would be helpful to have on-site counsellors available to jurors during a lengthy trial — “even one day a week or something, so if you have to speak to someone you know they’re available for you.”
Two of the 14 jurors in the Bosma case were excused before deliberations began, leaving the required 12 people to decide the fates of Millard and Smich.
Juror No. 4 — who had given a letter to the judge, outlining an upcoming obligation — was one of them. She was relieved of her duty, but disappointed to be yanked out of a trial she had invested so much time in.
“It’s like watching a movie and not seeing the end of it,” she says. “I wanted to deliberate. I was there for four and a half months. I wanted to have an impact on the final verdict.”
Freed from her duty, she was suddenly able to read media coverage of the case — something she’d been barred from until that point.
Now knowing what the jury did not — for example, that Millard and Smich were facing other firstdegree murder charges — she had a constant headache during the five days of deliberations, as she anxiously awaited the call from court staff that a verdict had been reached.
When the jury returned with their verdicts on June 17, she sat nervously, with the general public, in the packed courtroom gallery. As the two first-degree murder convictions were delivered — sending both men away to prison for at least 25 years — she smiled. “Justice was served,” she says. After the verdicts came in, as the Bosma family celebrated in the hallway and the media scrambled to file news stories, she thought about hanging around to see the jurors. But in the end she decided just to go home.
“It will stay with me forever … it’ll be something I never forget.”
Justice Andrew Goodman gave his charge to the jury on June 10, 2016. Deliberations lasted five days.