Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Should my son serve on a jury?

My 24 year old son’s schizophrenia is controlled with clozaril. Some symptoms remain but he is able to function fairly normally. He was called for jury duty and nearly selected for a trial jury. I was surprised they considered him because he gave his correct diagnosis when he filled out the jury questionnaire. I assumed he would never be selected for a jury but he very nearly was.

I’m not sure he should be on a jury, but I’m not sure he shouldn’t. Maybe I should ask his psychiatrist about it?

Have any of you faced this issue? What’s your opinion?

I’ve served on a jury twice and called for duty four or five times. They didn’t ask me about any illness at all, mental or otherwise. They did ask about my occupation. I can’t get into the details, but I feel my experience with my illness was relevant in both cases, and if I hadn’t served it may not have been fully a jury of peers.

I don’t think it changed the adjudication either way, as the only relevant thing was being able to interpret the law and follow instructions. Laws generally don’t take SMI into account unless in rare cases where insanity or guilty but insane defenses are employed. I was not involved with any sentencing, my experience may have been relevant in that case, but that would depend on the instructions and sentencing guidelines.

Generally you are encouraged to speak with the judge privately if there’s a possible issue with you serving. I had prior knowledge of a newspaper article about a case in question, so I spoke to the judge about it, and he asked if it would interfere with applying the law and following instructions and I said no.

Bear in mind that there’s also a minor amount of voir dire questioning from the lawyers, but it’s very minimal. I thought it was a good experience and I was paid a token amount for my time (I didn’t cash the checks, as my employer paid for the jury time) If you don’t think it might trigger him in some way, as there is the potential to see difficult crime scene evidence and testimony, and you think he can think clearly enough to interpret the law and jury instructions, I would leave it to the judge to decide.

Maggotbrane,
Thank you so much for recounting your experience as a juror. That is very helpful to me. The fact that my son was able to make it through the jury selection process from 8 am to 7 pm today showed me that he can handle more than I thought he could. But I’m relieved that he was not selected as a juror for this case. After he was dismissed from the jury pool, my son told me that the trial matter is a serious criminal case involving gun violence and multiple charges. There will likely be some disturbing, graphic evidence and testimony. I’m not sure how that would affect him. And I’m not certain he could focus exclusively on the evidence presented in the trial. During the trial he might experience some intrusive thoughts which he believes are telepathic communications from a different entity.

@okra I’m proud of your son. He represented his community well. As far as his reaction to gun violence and related testimony, I think the same could be said of nearly anyone. I had a minor concern that if my illness was discovered after fact, an attempt might be made to use the information as a basis of appeal. But as a citizen, your duty is to serve and follow instructions when called— the rest is up to the judge and the lawyers.

As with mental illness there’s a lot of misinformation about legal proceedings and the law in general. I feel serving on a jury better informed me about the process as least from a trial basis.

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Well done to both your son and Mag.

My son would not be eligible because he is under guardianship. I have considered reducing my guardianship at some point, but I kind of hate to rock the boat. If my son’s symptoms continue to improve, over time I might reach the point of investigating that.

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