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Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1992;20(3):325-33.

The occupational hazards of jury duty.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH 45267-0559.


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.

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