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Parkland Jury Trials Have to Manage Their Own Trial Stress

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The Associated Press

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Terry Spencer

Fort Louderdale, Florida (AP) —Chosen last week to determine if Florida school shooter Nicholas Cruz will be executed. Judges visit bloody crimes, create scenes, view graphic photos and videos, and listen to intense emotional testimony. This is an experience that you have to manage completely yourself.

During the expected one-month penalty trial, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scheller orders the judges not to tell anyone what they see, hear, or think about. .. She is not their spouse. She is not their best friend. Not their priests or therapists. Even each other until the deliberation begins. The order is not uncommon. It is issued in all trials to ensure that the judges' opinions are not influenced by outsiders.

At the end of the trial, 12 judges and 10 agents can be dropped off by others, but without the support of the judicial system. .. As in most cases in the United States, neither the Florida State Court nor the Broward County Court provide post-trial counseling to the jury.

The only state that does this is Massachusetts, which has been in service since December. Since 2005, federal courts have provided assistance after about 20 trials each year, usually including death penalties, child pornography, and child abuse cases, according to Charles Hall, a spokesman for the federal court system. I have done it.

Hall described the program as "judgments and judges likewise appreciate it" and "extraordinary that may be accompanied by jury services in certain types of trials." We consider it to be stressful. "

"That said, this program isn't used very often," Hall added.

Cruz's jury will visit the abandoned three-story building at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Here, 23-year-old Cruz shot and killed 14 students and 3 staff, injuring 17 others. Immediately after the February 14, 2018 slaughter, Valentine's Day gifts are still scattered.

They watched graphic security videos of horrified teens and teachers being shot white and running for their lives, examining autopsy and crime scene photos. Hear heartbreaking testimonies from the families of injured survivors and murder victims. When that is over, the jury will tackle the heavy decision to live or die, even for young adults, and even one of the worst slaughterers in the history of the country.

"That would be horrifying," Cruz's chief lawyer, Melisa McNeil, recently warned one potential judge in court.

Jim Wolfkale, head of the Virginia jury, convicted Lee Boyd Malvo in one of the multiple deaths in 2002 from a series of sniper shots in Washington, D.C.

Wolf Kale said he sometimes found it difficult not to talk to other juries, especially after Malvo looked "rude or arrogant" in his testimony.

"I would be hard not to talk because it would be like'You have to make fun of me'." Do you think I'm right? Others of the jury Are men and women thinking about what I'm thinking, "said Minister Wolfkale. But outside the court, his wife and friends never asked about the case, knowing he couldn't speak. "My friends will say,'We are praying for you.'"

Malvo is a teenager like Cruz and has 17 people. I admitted in court that I had killed him. Unlike Cruz, he committed murders in multiple states for nine months.

Cruz has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murders once in October, but has challenged his death sentence. All judges must agree in order for him to be sentenced to death. Otherwise, former Stoneman Douglas students will receive life without parlor.

For all or most of Cruz's jury, this is arguably the first exposure to graphic gun violence, dealing with the deadliest mass shootings tried in the United States. prize. Those who fatally shot at least 17 people died during or shortly after the attack. Suspected 23 murders in 2019 in El Paso, Texas are awaiting trial.

Wolfkale breaks down in the jury room after another jury sees graphic evidence or hears emotional testimony during the Malvo trial. Said there is. They will hug themselves and distract themselves by talking about their next Christmas vacation. Malvo was eventually sentenced to life rather than death because the jury was split, partly because the defendant was young.

Wolfcale, who voted for Malvo's execution, said he wasn't stressed until late on the final day of the trial. Then he said, "It hit me" — and he was with him for months.

"Even today, 20 years later, I can still remember a lot when adrenaline is high, but the first six months have always come to my mind," he said.

According to Center Director Paula Hannahford Agor, 70% of the judges asked were stressed during the regular exams in response to a survey conducted by the Jury Research Center. Said. She said that 10% reported severe stress, which usually relieves quickly.

In contrast, about 10% of the judges who participated in the high-profile graphic trials reported long-term stress, Hannah Ford Agor said. She said they showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders similar to those shown by some police officers, firefighters and doctors in the emergency room. The difference is that the first responder can talk to her colleagues, friends and counselors in real time while the stress is high.

Until the end of the trial, "Of course, judges are not allowed to talk about it," said Hannahford Agor. The

study also shows many juries who have imposed death sentence questions on themselves long after the trial.

"No one said this was a complete madness in their lives, but ... years later, did they still think about it and make the right decision? I wonder how difficult it was to make that decision, "Hannaford-Agor said.

Juniors over the age of 65 can receive mental health services through Medicare. Young judges can be covered by work or private insurance, which sometimes requires out-of-pocket costs and deductions of up to thousands of dollars. It can discourage many.

In addition to cost factors, the court does not offer the program, Hannah, because judges and other staff have experience processing graphic evidence and can talk to others during the trial. Ford-Agor said. They may not fully understand the judge's stress level.

The judge said, "I don't feel that hard." --

Jennifer Farrar, a researcher at Associated Press in New York, contributed to this report.