Okay. I'm sorry I missed your two other speakers. I could see them on video and I would love to have hear what they said.
My name is Paula Hannaford-Agor. I'm the director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts. We're headquartered in Williamsburg, Virginia. I'm delighted to be invited to address the committee this afternoon.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the National Center for State Courts, we are a non-profit organization that provides leadership, technical assistance, and research to state and local courts throughout the United States on virtually any issue that state courts have to deal with—criminal, civil, family law, court technology, and my particular area of expertise, jury system management and jury trial procedure.
I want to spend a couple of minutes this afternoon telling you a little bit about research that the national center has done on the issue of juror stress. Some of this is older research dating back to the mid-1990s. We haven't had an opportunity to update that research, but I don't believe the findings have changed in any appreciable manner.
Just to quickly come back, I want to give a little bit of what I mean by juror stress. When we talk about stress in the context of jury service, that can either be good stress or bad stress. One of the things that we know about stress is that it enhances psychological and physiological functioning. For jurors who are coming in and experiencing good stress, this can mean they actually have heightened attention, heightened awareness of the evidence that they're hearing, and of their experience. This is actually normatively a good thing for jurors participating in the justice system.
Bad stress, on the other hand, is stress that persists either for excessive periods or occurs in excessive degrees, and can, over time, result in anxiousness or depression. This type of juror stress is actually a subcategory of a form of acute stress. We're referring to a sudden event that causes an emotional or physical reaction. It's often perceived by the individual as a loss of control over their environment or a loss of predictability in their daily routine. For most jurors, after jury service is over, this heightened emotional or physical response returns to normal. There are usually no severe or permanent effects.
In terms of symptoms of juror stress, typically most are minor emotional symptoms: anxiety, irritation, agitation, sometimes boredom. Not all cases are particularly interesting. A smaller percentage of jurors will experience major emotional or physical symptoms. Major emotional could involve nightmares, feelings of detachment, disturbing memories about the trial or about the deliberations, or depression. Physical symptoms can include nausea, heart palpitations, chest pain, sometimes shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure, headaches, muscle tension, and decreased sex drive.
The study that the National Center did in the mid-1990s found that about 70% of all jurors who report to state courts in the United States—we're talking about 1.5 million individuals annually—report some stress from jury service. Thirty percent reported no stress whatsoever. But less than 10% of jurors reported very, very high levels of stress. Typically, the types of cases that reported stress were capital felony trials involving either a death sentence or life imprisonment; cases involving crimes against persons, particularly children; and civil trials to a lesser extent, typically if there was a great deal of personal injury. Even among jurors who didn't end up on trials—people who simply reported for jury service, but were not actually selected for a trial—about 25% of those reported some level of stress.
What causes this stress? It's important to remember our definition: it's a sudden event that causes feelings of loss of control and predictability. Stress is caused simply by the disruption to jurors' daily routines. The voir dire examination at the beginning of jury selection, in which the judge and attorneys are asking questions that are sometimes very personal, can be very stressful. Certainly the trial evidence and testimony is sometimes very emotional and generates a pretty intense emotional response.
Then there are the restrictions on jurors' behaviour. Jurors are often either sequestered and not allowed to leave the courthouse, or sequestered overnight in a hotel. They are not allowed to speak with family or friends about the trial, and they're not allowed to use tools such as the Internet that they typically use for communication. All this causes stress, and certainly the experience of going through deliberations and coming to a verdict can cause stress.
It's important to realize that this stress is cumulative. It starts just walking through the door in this unfamiliar place, for jurors who aren't familiar with the courthouse, and continues through the trial.
Especially stressful trials are those that are very long, taking more than a couple of days. I mentioned trials for capital felony. Trials that generate a lot of media attention tend to be very stressful. The jurors are actually acutely aware of their own role in the justice system. Trials that involve very grisly, gruesome, or disturbing evidence or testimony are stressful, as are issues or evidence that involve a personal impact or meaning for individual jurors. These are actually quite rare because typically, during the jury selection process, those jurors who have a personal reaction will probably be identified and removed from the panel, so they will not actually be chosen as trial jurors for that case. Also, interestingly enough, boring trials are actually acutely stressful for many jurors.
Typically we try to educate judges on just being aware of what sorts of things can cause juror stress, and things that judges can do in the context of individual trials to try to minimize the incidence of juror stress. For the purposes of your committee, though, I think you're more interested in treatment options after the fact.
In the United States this has really only been done on a pretty ad hoc basis, individually. I was able to catch some of Professor Thomas' testimony earlier, and as she said, sometimes it's just a judge who is particularly attentive, realizes the jurors are having problems, and may suggest outreach. Most courts are not particularly well supported, though, to be able to provide those types of services.
We have seen treatment options along a continuum of how stressful the case was: for cases that are only moderately stressful, one of the things we recommend is just providing jurors with information. Many courts now have brochures on tips for coping after jury duty. They give some information about the value of normalizing their experience and saying, “You actually just experienced a rather stressful event, and because of that you may have these types of symptoms. If you do, these are normal reactions to the trial, and here are some techniques: don't smoke, don't take alcohol, relax, do deep breathing, yoga, exercise,” and things to basically return some normalcy. Those are actually sufficient for most jurors.
We actually encourage courts to have jurors exchange contact information among themselves. Here in the U.S. there are no prohibitions on trial jurors talking with anyone they'd like after the trial, or with no one. One of the things we've found is that if jurors can talk with the other jurors who experienced the same trial, that can be a tremendous support for them.
The two other types of treatment usually reserved for much more serious trials are jury debriefings. These are typically very short group counselling sessions that are held with the jurors usually immediately after the trial is over. Typically they are done with a trained psychologist or some other type of counselling professional, and they're similar to the type of counselling that is provided to first responders—police, fire, and emergency services personnel—after traumatic accidents or events. Again, they are to help the jurors process their emotions a little bit, and then give them some tips for how to manage stress in the next couple of days or the next couple of weeks, as well as some ideas about how, if this isn't really going away, they should probably seek additional help.
In this country, a number of courts have contracted with their local mental health service providers or victims assistance offices to provide these types of services on an as-needed basis. They do require trained counselling professionals.
The other model is simply to offer jurors individual counselling after the fact. The federal courts in this country do this through the federal health and human services division employee assistance program. I'd be happy to send the committee a little bit more information about this, but typically, for anywhere up to six months after the trial, the jurors get an opportunity to visit with a federal mental health professional in an individual counselling situation. We've recommended that states adopt this model. I'm not aware that any of them have done so at this point. It's a fairly new program, started in probably 2012-13, and so it hasn't been widely replicated yet.
Those are all of the comments that I wanted to give, and I'm happy to take any questions.