The occupational hazards of jury duty.
S. M. Kaplan and C. Winget,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
20(3): 325-33, 1992.
Jurors on criminal trials carry a considerable burden of responsibility. They determine the defendant's
fate. Additionally, during trials they can be exposed to stressful, frightening, and sordid aspects of
life. The stressfulness varies depending upon the nature of the trial, its length, the nature of the
testimony and evidence, the jurors' interpersonal relationships, the difficulty establishing guilt or
innocence, the public's attitude, etc. These experiences can create psychological and/or physical
discomfort that can be transient and mildly or moderately intense, or more serious and constitute
illness. The authors have studied juries of four criminal trials--two murder cases, one child abuse
case, and one obscenity case. Forty jurors were interviewed. Twenty-seven had one or more
discomforting physical and/or physiological symptoms. These involved gastrointestinal distress (10
jurors); generalized nervousness (4 jurors); heart palpitation (6 jurors); headaches (4 jurors); sexual
inhibitions (4 jurors); depression (4 jurors); anorexia (4 jurors); faintness (2 jurors); and numbness,
lump in throat, chest pain, hives, and flu (1 juror each). Seven of the jurors became clearly ill.
Illnesses included: peptic ulcer reactivation and hives, phobic reaction, anxiety state and increased
alcohol use, hypertensive episode and visual scotomata, sexual inhibition, chills, fever, and
depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.