Tori Stafford murder trial juror traumatized by grisly evidence settles with province
Settlement comes hours after Ontario announces new program to provide free counselling
The Ministry of the Attorney General has reached a settlement with a juror diagnosed with a form of trauma after the murder trial for eight-year-old Tori Stafford.
The woman, who cannot be named due to a publication ban on the names of jurors in the case, was diagnosed with a condition called vicarious post-traumatic stress disorder months after performing her civic duty. Four years ago, the woman was one of 12 jurors in the trial of Michael Rafferty, the man convicted in the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder the little girl.
On Monday, lawyer Dan Macdonald at Legate and Associates LLP confirmed the ministry has agreed to provide the woman with "some financial assistance toward the expenses she has borne in obtaining treatment following the trial," calling the resolution "satisfactory."
- Traumatized Ontario jurors get new program for free counselling
- Ontario's attorney general, Yasir Naqvi, vows action on jurors with PTSD
- Tori Stafford murder trial juror seeks compensation, says grisly evidence traumatized her
Lawyer Barbara Legate was to challenge a decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to uphold an earlier ruling dismissing the woman's claim that as a juror traumatized by the months of graphic testimony, she was herself a victim of the crime.
'I was reliving the trial'
"My short-term memory was gone. I was angry. I was reliving the trial, but I was reliving it in the place where I was standing there at the crime scene, watching it happen over and over and over again. I couldn't get rid of the videos in my head playing," the woman told CBC News last month.
She simply couldn't unsee the months of brutal testimony, especially of Rafferty's former girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic who described in graphic detail how the couple lured the Woodstock, Ont., girl into a car on her walk home from school, who Rafferty would eventually rape before the eight-year-old would be repeatedly beaten with a hammer, her body left under a pile of rocks.
In 2014, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board dismissed the woman's application through the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. It argued she didn't meet their criteria for a "nervous shock claim," and that she was too far from the crime in relation, location and time to qualify.
Hearing the evidence was what caused the juror emotional distress, not Rafferty's crime itself, the board argued at the time, saying it was "absurd to suggest that a jury member is a victim of a crime."
'We've heard those stories,' attorney general says
Monday's settlement came just hours after Ontario announced a new program to provide free and easily accessible counselling services to anyone serving jury duty. The Juror Support Program was prompted by a series of stories by CBC Toronto examining the psychological impact of serving as a jury, an impact some said was not adequately met by the current system in which a the province covered counselling costs only if the therapy is ordered by a judge.
"Jurors in difficult trials do face evidence that could be quite horrific, and we've heard those stories," Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said Monday. "It's only appropriate that we provide appropriate services."
The program will operate in a similar way to an employer's assistance program, Naqvi said.
"If [jurors] need those services, they just would have to simply call that number, speak to a specialist and have their unique needs assessed, and based on that have counselling available to them," he said.
The juror in the Rafferty murder trial welcomes those changes.
"She applauds the steps taken by the attorney general to ensure that future jurors receive assistance when they need it," Macdonald said Monday.