No TN Juror Counseling; Judge Worries About Tainting Verdicts


Courts in parts of Washington state, Oregon, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, New York and, most recently, Texas offer post-trial counseling and debriefing services for jurors who have been on difficult cases, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “In some cases, you would expect anybody sitting through it would need counseling,” said Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of jury studies for the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. “You’d kind of wonder about the mental status of someone who could sit through it and not be affected.”

Tennessee offers no such debriefing service. Clinical psychologist Dr. John Hutson has found that even police and firemen, who deal with gore as part of their jobs, often have difficulty dealing with cases involving children. Jurors, he added, likely would have even more difficulty. Retired Criminal Court Judge Joseph Dailey recalled that “during trials, usually murder cases or child-abuse cases, it was not uncommon to see jurors crying in the jury box.” Another judge worries that offering counseling to jurors could taint a guilty verdict “as the product of trauma or emotional damage,” possibly making the verdict vulnerable to being overturned on appeal. “For that reason, not much is done in the justice system to help rehabilitate jurors,” said Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft.


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