Although court records of all juror’s names who served on the highly publicized Casey Anthony murder case are sealed, public backlash over the controversial verdict has prompted a debate on whether or not jurors are permanently traumatized after serving – both mentally and physically.
Florida Judge Belvin Perry has allowed an unspecified delay in releasing their names to let anger over the verdict dissipate.
Since the trial ended, it appears as though the public has refocused its anger toward Casey Anthony and are targeting the jurors. Analysts argue that jurors should not be required to face public opposition after announcing an unpopular verdict.
The jurors and alternates have been subject to public criticism and alleged threats since announcing Anthony’s acquittal.
Jury service is one of the most important civic duties an individual can perform, according to the United States Courts.
The tradition of trial by jury in this country is older than the Republic itself, having arisen from traditions that were rooted in English life by the thirteenth century.
The phrase "a jury of one's peers" is a part of the American language, yet surprisingly it nowhere appears in the Constitution. The Sixth Amendment simply guarantees the right to "a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed."
Who sits on the jury can have a great impact on the outcome of a trial.
However, during and after the trial period protection of the juror's rights relies on teamwork of judge, jury – and now – the police. Some say psychologists should be added to the list.
Jurors in the Casey Anthony case were subject to watching numerous images of a two-year-old’s skeleton and other disturbing photos during the trial.
Psychologists say if the average public is privy to the details of a violent crime, be it murder, multiple murders, rapes and even bad assaults can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
A report by psychologists at the University of Leicester warns of the dangers of jurors facing trauma because of their exposure to harrowing and gruesome evidence.
Their research highlights how women jurors are more vulnerable, particularly if the trial covers material that resonates with their personal history.
The report claims jury service can be a “significant stressor for a vulnerable individuals." It debates whether screening might be employed to eliminate jurors from potentially traumatizing trials.
"Recent research on post-traumatic stress disorder has revealed that it is not only victims of violence or crime that suffer trauma,” said Dr. Noelle Robertson with University of Leicester.
“But that those who interact with them may also be affected.”
She said jurors are obliged to serve and may be exposed to gruesome exhibits and harrowing stories and this can lead to traumatization for some of them.
The report recommends more support for jurors, including more comprehensive preparation, briefing and clear directions, as well as guidelines for the decision process in the jury room.
It also recommends that courts could provide a supporter for jurors, who might lessen the sense of isolation jurors can feel, since they are unable to discuss the court case outside the jury room.
"Jury service is a civic duty, yet we know little about its consequences for the individual. At present, anyone who talks openly about their experiences runs the risk of being charged with contempt of court,” Robertson said.
A couple days after Casey Anthony was found not guilty, a few jurors consented to interviews to speak out about the verdict.
Juror Jennifer Ford was one of the first to break her silence. She told reporters that “quite frankly, we were shocked by the reaction of the general public.”
“As many people have suspected the jurors never said Anthony was innocent. We just couldn’t find enough evidence to convict her,” she said in a recent interview.
Ford said her and the other jurors cried and were “sick to our stomachs” after voting on a not guilty verdict on the charges that Anthony killed her daughter Caylee.
“That’s why we didn’t speak to the press right immediately following the verdict,” she said.
Juror No. 12, a red-haired woman in her 60s, told the court she worked at a Publix Grocery when she was questioned as a potential juror before the trial, according to court records.
Now, she has told reporters that she is terrified that she could face public scrutiny due to the controversial verdict. She has reportedly left her job and went into hiding fearing that her co-workers "want her head on a platter.”
Diane Dimond, Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist, recently examined another angle concerning jury service after watching the Casey Anthony trial.
She said it might be time for the United States to begin using professional jurors.
“Besides harsh financial hardships to jurors in this economically topsy-turvy time there is the issue of lay people trying to decipher intricate legal language and instructions,” Dimond said
“For the most part, today’s jurors have no training in the law and wouldn’t know a dictum from a disjunctive allegation. They’re given a super-crash course in the law applicable to their particular case but, overall, the system isn’t friendly.”
Dimond said her and her co-workers remember the haunted looks after the trial.
"I have seen on the faces of many jurors I’ve encountered during my career covering court cases," she said.
"Some have told me in post-trial interviews they found it hard to concentrate in the unfamiliar territory of a court room. During proceedings they worried about jobs, family and their peace of mind."
Did you know?
To be legally qualified for jury service, an individual must:
- be a United States citizen;
- be at least 18 years of age;
- reside primarily in the judicial district for one year;
- be adequately proficient in English;
- have no disqualifying mental or physical condition;
- not currently be subject to felony charges; and
- never have been convicted of a felony (unless civil rights have been legally restored)
Excuses from Jury Service:
Many courts offer excuses from service, on individual request, to designated groups of persons or occupational classes. Such groups may include persons over age 70; persons who have, within the past two years, served on a federal jury; and persons who serve as volunteer fire fighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew.
The Jury Act also allows courts to permanently excuse a juror from service at the time he or she is summoned on the grounds of "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience" if the distance to the courthouse makes it difficult for the juror to travel. The juror should write a letter to the clerk of court requesting an excuse with an explanation of hardship. Excuses for jurors are granted at the discretion of the court and cannot be reviewed or appealed to Congress or any other entity.