Why is jury duty always stressful to some degree?
Under the best of circumstances, jury duty causes stress to the citizens fulfilling that civic responsibility. It disrupts the normal flow of your life and may force you to neglect family or professional obligations over the course of the trial. Even as you focus on your role in the criminal process, you may be aware of other tasks piling up in your lives outside the courtroom.
In addition, you are required to spend long periods of time interacting with a group of peers not of our own choosing. Invariably, differences of opinion, values, or interpersonal style arise which can make the ongoing contact tense or awkward.
Finally, as jurors, you are instructed to share no aspect of the case with each other or with friends or loved ones outside. Even as the case takes up the bulk of your time and waking thought, you are not
allowed to vent, examine, or review those thoughts with the most important people in your life.
Why is duty on high profile cases or violent crimes especially stressful?
As an alleged offense becomes more serious, jurors feel a greater burden in making that decision, not only for the impact it has on the people involved but also from a sense of responsibility to the larger community. Often in cases involving violence, the jury is exposed to images and stories that go
beyond normal experience. Just as police officers and firefighters may become haunted by scenes of suffering or horror to which they respond, so can jurors be unsettled by the graphic reenactment or exposure to a crime.
Ironically, even as you feel the pressure and power of these cases, you are simultaneously told to abandon stress management techniques, which have served you in the past. You are precluded from sharing specifics of the case with those upon whom you have relied before for support. Rather than venting and releasing your outrage and anxiety, you have been encouraged to suppress your emotional reaction to maintain objective neutrality. While we all tend to make sense of our world through identifying with the people around us, you have come to realize that there are dangers in identifying too strongly with a victim or, perhaps, with a defendant.
Finally, simply knowing that you were imperfect in holding your tongue, emotions, or perspective always in check can compound the stress of a difficult case.
What are some common stress reactions?
- poor concentration or memory
- difficulty making decisions
- slowed problem solving skills
- repetitive review of the event in your mind
- periods of lost emotional control
- anxiety, fear, chronic tension
- depression or grief
- guilt and shame
- muscle tremors or aches
- stomach upset or heartburn
- chest pain, heart racing, difficulty breathing
- excessive or impaired sleep
- changes in eating
- withdrawal from others
- increased alcohol consumption