Support offered to Albertans who serve on juries
Graphic and disturbing evidence in some court cases can take a toll on jurors, but they can now get help.
The bloody murders of three people at the Bolsa restaurant on New Year’s Day 2009 was one of the most notorious gang killings in Calgary history, and one of the most graphic trials.
Jurors had to wade through mountains of gory evidence before Real Honorio pleaded guilty to killing an innocent bystander.
“You kind of find out the difference between what real violence looks like and what you see on TV,” said Travis Nelson, one of those jurors. “A lot of photographic evidence came into play.”
Those photos lingered on in Nelson’s mind long after the trial was over, but none of the jurors was offered any long-term support.
That changed in 2015 when the province started offering free access to mental health services to jurors, something that may come into play in the Douglas Garland triple murder trial.
Jurors can get counselling for up to two months after the verdict, and can extend that even longer if needed. And it might be for some, with the trial featuring a steady stream of horrific evidence that sometimes brought people in the courtroom to tears.
Experts say support is critical when facing images and information this disturbing.
“It might take some time for them to recognize there's an impact or to recognize how severe that impact is on them, but we would encourage them to reach out before those impacts become too interfering with their day-to-day life,” said Jerilyn Dressler, Calgary Distress Centre.
While Albertans can benefit from the support program, people in other provinces can’t, prompting one Toronto man to start a Facebook group demanding equal support across the country.
Mark Farrantsays he was diagnosed with PTSD a year after he was a juror on a first-degree murder trial in 2014.
“I was having vicious, routine flashbacks of the trial, I was seeing images from the trial, I was isolating myself from people,” he said.
The Distress Centre urges anyone in the community who has been following the Garland trial and may be feeling impacted by the evidence to reach out.