State Invests in Juror Support Program

9:40 PM, Mar 1, 2012   |    comments
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If you've served as a juror in an abuse, rape or murder case, you know the details can be brutal: details of gruesome crime scene evidence, pictures and emotional victims to add.

Those images can cause nightmares for years after the cases close, and almost three years after Kirk Turner's murder trial in Davie County, former juror Landon Potts still remembers how the case followed him home.

"It was very involved in my life," Landon remembers, "I had several sleepless nights."

Four and a half weeks, gruesome Turner, in self defense, stabbed and killed his wife.

"Several ladies on the jury were very upset about the pictures and the things we had to hear and read about," Landon explained.

In his 30 years as an assistant district attorney, Gene Morris has also seen his share of horrifying crime scene pictures.

"I've had cases where bodies where decomposed, and they have to see photographs of decomposed bodies," Morris said.

The state estimates 4,000 jurors sit through haunting details like that every year. Some are left emotionally weak.

"I've had men wear sunglasses in a courtroom all day long when I was trying a man for capital murder of a little girl to hide their tears," said Morris.

Others suffer mental distress long after their civic duties are over.

"Either a guilty person goes free or an innocent person goes to jail if we make the wrong choices," said Potts.

Thanks to a new program, jurors can now turn to mental health professionals at no cost. The state is offering one counseling session to those who need it.

For some, it'd be a chance to identify further mental health needs and get referrals for additional help.

"It's a good option to have," Landon said.

And for all the courts ask of jurors, Morris says help like this, is the least they can do.

"A lot of times they just need that one outlet just to get it off their chest," he explained, "They do an important job for us; we can't do it without them, obviously."

The state has budgeted $13,920 for the program in its pilot year. That's a little more than $3 per eligible juror.

Guilford County District Attorney Howard Newman tells us one counseling session doesn't sound like enough for a really distressed juror.

He adds that the money being spent on the program could be spent elsewhere in a court system that's been struggling through the weak economy.

WFMY News 2

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