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An increasing number of courts are recognizing that jurors may be affected by the graphic or violent nature of some trials, and are offering counseling services to help them cope. The King County Superior Court in Seattle started offering counseling to jurors in 1998 and is believed to have the most comprehensive program in the nation. But since then, a small number of courts have also started offering counseling or debriefing sessions to jurors. Seminole County, Fla., is ready to launch a pilot program that will allow jurors to meet with certified crisis responders after trial if necessary, said Debra Wagner, victim advocate coordinator for the county sheriff’s office. “We would help them better explore their reaction to jury service, give them an opportunity to normalize the reaction,” she said. “We want to make sure we prepare them, since they may have trouble sleeping or play over in their minds what happened,” Wagner said. In Texas, a bill pending in the state Legislature would provide jurors with up to 10 hours of post-trial psychological counseling in criminal trials “involving graphic evidence or testimony.” Kentucky courts do not offer juror counseling but the state’s Supreme Court recently asked a trial judge to look into the issue and report back with recommendations, said Leigh Anne Hiatt, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts. Murder and trauma Court officials said jury duty � particularly during murder trials � can be traumatic. They pointed out that jurors are not allowed to discuss cases during trial, which is how people often deal with other traumatic events. “These are tough things for people to listen to,” said Judge John Collins, the presiding judge in Yamhill County, Ore. “It can be disturbing even if you see it on one of the TV shows, but if you sit there knowing this is real life and see it in real pictures and evidence, it’s really tough on people,” Collins added. In Spokane County Superior Court in Cheney, Wash., jurors are eligible for an employee assistance program, which covers eight visits with a professional per year, said Jan Gray, the county’s benefits coordinator. “It’s like they are any other county employee,” Gray said. “They can call up and say what their issue is and get assigned a counselor accordingly.” Yamhill County also has a jury debriefing program, but has not had a request for the service since 2000, said Lynette Pearson, the Oregon county’s jury coordinator. In Toledo, Ohio, the trial court works with a treatment center to make individual or group counseling sessions available to jurors after a trial, said Jean Atkin, court administrator of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, General Trial Division. The service has rarely been used in the approximately 10 years that it has been available, she said. “What we find is oftentimes the jurors will stay in touch with each other rather than go through some service,” Atkin said. But in King County, where about six to eight debriefings take place yearly, court officials go a step further in ensuring jurors get counseling. Following the conclusion of a trial that court officials deem could have been difficult for jurors, a clinical psychologist comes in and is present as jurors are dismissed, said Paul Manolopoulos, court operations manager for King County Superior Court in Seattle. Unlike most other courts, King County’s court received $10,000 from the county to start the program and has a more structured system of referring jurors and keeping track of their progress. In 2000, it teamed up with several organizations to analyze the program’s first two years. Ad hoc offerings While King County’s program is formal, other courts offer debriefing sessions on a more of an ad hoc basis, said Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. Courts should focus on some of the more common reasons jurors get stressed, such as not knowing what to expect during jury duty or having to make alternative day care plans, Hannaford-Agor said. “I think it’s important for courts to think not so much in terms of treatment and counseling and really high-level cases � which are few and far between � but thinking more preventatively about what are the various sources of stress in your more routine trials and how do you prevent or at least alleviate those stresses,” she said. For example, courts could do a better job of informing potential jurors that if there is one day that would be particularly difficult for them to come in on, they may be able to ask for a deferred date, she said.

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