Calgary forensic psychologist urges more support for those affected by grisly trial details
‘You don’t get the option of looking away’: Jurors exposed to trials like Douglas Garland’s may need more help
A Calgary forensic psychologist says we need to do more to support the mental health of jurors and others affected by the gruesome details in some criminal trials.
"We have support programs for jurors in Alberta, but all of those programs come after the trial has concluded," Patrick Baillie told The Homestretch this week.
"I think there are ways to make sure the jury is being supported during the process without contaminating the presentation of evidence. I just think that we need to take advantage of those kinds of options to do what we can for a group of citizens who have come forward to do their duty."
- Douglas Garland triple-murder trial hears dentist believes tooth found in ashes
- Ontario to offer free counselling for traumatized jurors
Calgary jurors are currently reviewing evidence in the triple-murder trial of Douglas Garland who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Alvin Liknes and Kathy Liknes.
Some of the details have been extremely graphic.
"We have heard about burn barrels, the introduction of DNA evidence, meat hooks, internet searches," Baillie explained.
Jury has to sit day after day, pay close attention
"The jury has to sit day after day and pay close attention to all of this because it relates to their ultimate responsibility for determining whether or not Mr. Garland is guilty of the three crimes that he has been charged with."
Baillie said that the case involves a young child, only adds the stress faced by court observers.
"You have five-year-old Nathan. Where there may be graphic or gruesome trials, here you have a young child and a relentless level of evidence that is coming out," he said.
For jurors, Baillie said they may not have known what they were getting into and in a sense, they are all alone.
"You can't have a one-on-one conversation with one of the other jurors about what has been going on," Baillie explained.
"You can't talk to friends or family. You can't talk to a mental health therapist. Part of my concern for jurors, is that they end up in this rather artificial situation. They got a letter in the mail, they responded, they went to court and now they have been put onto jury duty without a whole lot of preparation for what they are going to be dealing with and without access to that social support network that most of us would tap into when going through something difficult."
Take a break if possible
Baillie urges anyone who can take a break from the case, to do so if it makes sense.
"For the family who are involved as the victims of this process, it is making sure they are being mindful of their own mental health in the process."
Ontario announced support for traumatized jurors this week and Baillie says that, and other options should be explored in Alberta.
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | Calgary can take more refugees in 2017, Nenshi says
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | 'We believe you': Mayor asks officer not to resign amid questions about harassment, intimidation
With files from The Homestretch