Jurors deserve more support
It was a trial that lasted four-and-a-half months. For that entire time, jurors put their lives on hold to listen, day after day, to heartbreaking, terrifying and gruesome testimony about two murderers who shot and killed a young father and then burned his body.
Like many people, you may have watched the Tim Bosma murder trial unfold. But you watched from a distance. Unlike jurors, you were not in the room day after day with the killers with no choice but to listen to the graphic testimony. That was their duty, they were compelled by the government. They were doing it for very little compensation, not by choice but because they were chosen at random for the responsibility. They did not have any particular training for the task.
And they were doing it with no emotional or psychological support. They couldn’t even speak to their families about the crushing weight of the proceedings.
The Spectator’s Molly Hayes recently talked to one of those jurors, a 55-year-old woman who sat through the trial but was excused for a family obligation just before deliberations began. The woman described how hard it was to transition back to normal life without any support. “You’re really on your own … except for the other people on the jury,” she said.
Unfortunately, counselling is made available to jurors only when ordered by a judge. Why is it not readily available to any juror who feels he or she needs it either during or after the trial?
Although juries fall under provincial jurisdiction, federal NDP justice critic Murray Rankin said this fall he is going to ask the Committee of the House of Commons to study the issue. He said he became aware of the need after being contacted by a juror suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving on a jury for a first-degree murder trial. We applaud his effort and hope it produces results.
So far, no parliamentary committee has studied the issue, nor have any bills been introduced to fix the lack of support for jurors. In 2009, the Department of Justice recognized a need, but did not act on it, saying more studies needed to be conducted.
It’s doubtful more studies are needed, but if that’s the case, it’s time to get moving. Get the studies done now so we can get the help in place to prevent further suffering among jurors.
There is increased awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders and other law enforcement professionals, and increased awareness about the need for emotional and psychological supports. Why would this not extend to jurors who have to bear witness to and deliberate on the most depraved acts imaginable?
We owe jurors more than just a thank you. We owe them the support they need to put the scars of the trial behind them.