Counseling service offered to jurors to help cope with post-trial trauma

SAN ANTONIO – Any trial -- especially murder and sexual assault cases -- is often an emotional experience for witnesses, lawyers, judges and jury members.

Judges and lawyers are accustomed to dealing with the sometimes graphic and explicit elements of evidence, but not jurors.

"Sometimes the cases they have, especially in district court, are grisly," said state District Judge Jefferson Moore.

"There's photographs that they have to see that you can't unsee after you've seen these things, and there's testimony that you hear that you can't unhear after you've heard it," Moore noted.

To help jurors cope with any troublesome posttrial issues, Moore makes jurors aware of a no-cost counseling program that is available at the Sarabia Counseling Center located at the downtown UTSA campus.

"No one really understands what they've been through," said Catherine Somody, a clinical assistant professor at the counseling center.

"They're struggling with their own decision, and then being able to verbalize that to others can be difficult," Somody said in reference to the deliberation process of a trial.

Deliberations can be challenging when an individual juror's personal behavior is involved, Somody said.

"There are disagreements and people who want to take over," she said. "There are many ways for us to help them integrate that experience and learn resilience and coping skills."  

The center also includes a new state-of-the-art neurofeedback program.

"We can actually see on the monitor brain waves, to see which part of the brain might be affected by trauma," Somody said.

The program is getting high marks from Moore and other judges so far.

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