An atypical psychological impact of jury duty

“Dear Prudence,” an advice column in Slate, this week responded to the story of a juror whose experience reviewing evidence in a sexual assault case left the juror with memories that stunted her ability to fantasize. The juror had previously been aroused principally by relatively aggressive sexual behavior, but after witnessing the evidence of a sexual assault, the juror lost her appetite.

Prudence offered this advice to the juror:

As humans we have a vast imaginative capacity, and the movies we create in our heads are private and personal works of art. You don’t have to replace your go-to fantasy. Delight in the fact that you are a woman who has a rich, complex, and satisfying erotic life.

That’s reassuring, perhaps, but the case points out two things often overlooked about jury service. First, reviewing evidence in difficult cases can leave a mark on jurors’ memories that last weeks, years, or even a lifetime, for better or worse. Second, the experience of jury duty can sometimes expose jurors to realities that they otherwise successfully avoid, or see only through fiction and dramatizations.

Though this is an admittedly unusual juror account of the service experience, it’s another reminder of the sheer range of impacts jury duty has on people every day.

About jgastil

John Gastil is Head and Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making.
This entry was posted in Conducting trials, Social/political impact of juries. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to An atypical psychological impact of jury duty

  1. I served on a jury about similar issues that had a very disturbing impact on me in the short term and when I am reminded of it in simple things like FB posts of those who have to report for jury duty, that event is still very real for me. In addition to the disturbing sexual content of the trial and the involvement of a very young victim, the trial was held in a windowless courtroom with the defendant just a few feet a way and looking creepily at me, and we lost all power and I truly was paralyzed with fear. Then to boot, I was the foreman and despite the evidence we ended with a mistrial. Luckily he was retried and sentenced a few years later. I know it is atypical, but it happens.

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