Ex-juror diagnosed with PTSD says psychiatric help should be available after trials

A man diagnosed with PTSD after serving as a juror in a gruesome murder trial in Toronto wants officials to provide help to those suffering after doing their civic duty.

'I'm not the same person,' says man who served as jury foreman in Toronto murder trial

Mark Farrant says he wasn't prepared for the graphic horror of the evidence he was obliged to sit through as a juror during a Toronto murder trial. (Sue Reid/CBC)

A man diagnosed with PTSD after serving as a juror in a gruesome murder trial in Toronto wants officials to provide help to those suffering after doing their civic duty.

"I'm not the same person I am coming out of that trial as I was going in," said Mark Farrant, 44.

Two and a half years ago, the retail marketing researcher was the jury foreman in the first-degree murder trial of 31-year-old Farshad Badakhshan.

In April 2014, Badakhshan was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend. Four years earlier, Badakshsan had slit her throat and stabbed her repeatedly before setting their rooming house in Toronto's Annex area on fire.

"The immediate graphic horror really of the crime itself, that was apparent very quickly, and I don't think I was prepared for that," Farrant told CBC News.

You might be in a conversation with somebody, and you just start to cry.- Mark Farrant, former juror

"As we went further into the trial, certainly the autopsy photos and certainly the crime scene itself, the video … the coroner's own verbal [description] and diagrams of the deceased, those images became very, very much a part of my psyche afterwards."

During the trial, Farrant couldn't share what he saw and heard and how he felt with anyone: not his wife, family, friends, co-workers or fellow jurors.

"We all just understood we didn't want to impart an opinion on another person, so we kept it to ourselves and that's a burden."
During a trial, jurors are instructed by the judge not to read, watch or listen to outside reports about the case. They also must not discuss details of the case with anyone outside the jury. (Pam Davies)

Trauma intensified over time

After the verdict, Farrant said, the judge had tea with the jurors in the jury room and thanked them personally. They were given taxi chits and walked out of the courthouse, back to their lives.

"I was thinking that day, 'This exit from the courthouse seems abrupt.' I left the courtroom stunned. All the pressure that is on you, it's a vacuum. I felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room."

Farrant said his PTSD symptoms intensified over time. He started to feel anxious about going to crowded places like malls and taking public transit, so he avoided them.

"There were certainly images that I saw that I had a hard time getting rid of, that would come at the most inopportune time," he said.

"You might be in a conversation with somebody and you just start to cry," he said. "You're just crying for no reason and you're shaking for no reason."

No systemic help for jurors

Farrant tried to work through the issues on his own for months, until his immediate family insisted he seek help.

He said he started by calling the courts and social services for psychological help.

But Ontario doesn't offer any assistance unless ordered by a judge.

"If counselling is not ordered by a judge, jurors may contact counselling service providers from their community. The decision to provide counselling is at the discretion of the trial judge," said Brendan Crawley, spokesman for Ontario's Attorney General's Office, in a statement to CBC News. "Like all private services, jurors who pursue counselling on their own (i.e. when it has not been ordered by a judge) would pay for it themselves." 

MPs consider review of juror support

The NDP member of Parliament for Victoria, Murray Rankin, said the system should provide support to jurors if they need it

"Judges have access to counselling, the clerks in the court and lawyers all have through various plans, the ability to avail themselves of counselling if they need it after horrific facts are exposed; the only ones in the rooms who don't are the jurors."

Rankin wants the standing committee on justice and human rights to add the issue to its agenda when it reviews the Criminal Code in the coming weeks.

Rankin acknowledges that jurors fall under provincial jurisdiction, but said the federal government can play two roles: "One: To see how this whole issue fits in the criminal justice system generally. And two: If there are best practices that we can impart to other territories and provinces as a result of our review, to do it."

Farrant said he has been paying to see a therapist for a year after he was diagnosed with PTSD.

​"A juror should not have to seek support, should not have to be burdened with an additional enormous burden of trying to get better after something that has impacted them that was their civic duty to perform," he said.

"I've made huge steps and I'm well on that road, but it's a long road."

Farrant said that despite the after-effects, he's proud he served on a jury.

"The regret was I was affected by it."

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