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Murder trials can take a toll on jurors

Posted November 6, 2008
Updated October 12, 2011

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— Each coming from different walks of life, Kathy Galde, Pauline Haislip, Ed Peck and Patricia Silvers share at least one bond in a friendship that they say is rooted in the pain of tragedy.

The four served on the Wake County jury that convicted Timothy Wayne Johnson on Aug. 22, 2005, in the 2004 Labor Day weekend shooting deaths of Marine 2nd Lt. Brett Harman and his best friend, Kevin McCann, both 23.

Harman, stationed at Camp Lejeune, and McCann, a Chicago businessman, were celebrating outside Carter-Finley Stadium on Sept. 4 before N.C. State's season opener when they got into a fight with Johnson, then 23, and his younger brother, Tony Johnson.

Witnesses said Tony Johnson antagonized the friends until Harman and McCann chased him. Things got out of control and ultimately led to Timothy Johnson pulling a gun, fatally shooting Harman, then McCann.

After a two-week trial and three days of deliberation, jurors found Timothy Johnson guilty of first-degree murder. After two hours more of deliberation, they sentenced him to life in prison.

"I won't forget this trial – ever," Galde said. "And often, it will bring tears for both sides."

Almost immediately, the jurors were thrown into the graphic details of the case, including a demonstration of the final seconds leading to the shootings.

"We always got out of (court), and our eyes were like, 'Holy cow, can you believe that just went down?'" Peck said.

Jurors say imagining what the victims' and defendant's families were going through added to their stress.

"You leave there, you were drained," Haislip said. "You couldn't talk about it. So, you would go home and sit there and run the whole day's event again in your head."

Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist, says such stress is common in capital cases, even for people who think they are prepared.

"Jurors bring in their own biases, their own weaknesses, their own past," Teague said. "In the middle of the trial, they may have an immediate emotional reaction to the case that they thought they had worked through."

Considering the death penalty, he says, is the most difficult thing jurors are asked to do.

"Saying it is one thing. Actually going in there and looking into someone's eyes and giving them the death penalty is something else," Teague said.

"It was stressful when we went ahead and tried to come down with the verdict," said Peck, who served as the jury foreman.

"And the whole time you're going, 'Am I making the right decision?'" Haislip said.

Teague says being able to bond with others who went through the same experience is the best way to overcome stress.

So, would these jurors do it again?

"If you're asked to serve on a jury, you need to do that and give it your undivided attention," Silvers said.

"If you were to ask me if I would want to serve again, probably not," Galde said. "Not in that kind of case. It was too emotional."

The jurors say they have also stayed in touch with the families of the victims, which helps them cope with the tragedy.

15 Comments

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  • boomylar Nov 7, 2008

    ***sorry i had realized that i was signed on as my co worker *jessie* so i had to login to mine***

  • boomylar Nov 7, 2008

    Should we expect lawsuits from traumatized jurors, now?.... i would hope not.. but people these days you can never tell...i hated having all that stuff on my mind tho. you can't talk about it so it just sits there. mine was a week long. and that week i lost alot of sleep. the first day is when they showed the pics of the accident, and then they just kept bringing them up. that poor girl, i know she was in the wrong for what she had done, but she has to live with those images for the rest of her life. and i'm sure what she actully saw was way worse.

  • Justin T. Nov 7, 2008

    Jury members are doing their civic duty. I understand that it is stressful but please take a moment to think about what your law enforcement officers, firemen, paramedics, etc. see on a daily basis. Blood, guts, and death.

    True, they are trained to deal with it, but is a real challenge to try and be strong out there. This story makes me wonder why is this being put in the news.

    Should we expect lawsuits from traumatized jurors, now?

  • entryrejected Nov 7, 2008

    I'm not commenting on the first comment by mbmpcpro2. But I would like to share my jury duty experince. I was on a jury for a case that involed a girl who chose to drink and drive. she hit a Marine walking down the rd and killed him. we had to see all the graphic pictures, watch the vics mother cry, watch the def. parents and husband cry. and worst of all, watch her cry. you kow she didn't mean to do it, you knew she truely and deeply regeted getting behind the wheel that night. The Marine that was killed just lost his wife two weeks before the accident and they left behind 3 kids

  • OALA Nov 7, 2008

    No one's family asked to be put into this. All of the people involved that day made choices that will affect their families and the families of those in the courtroom.
    While it is easy to say "they should have been raised better", the fact is that kids don't always turn out how they are raised, for better or worse. If a parent has done all they can to raise a child right, you cannot hold them responsible for the actions of the child. The individual must be held accoutable. In this case- all the young men who made choices that day... It isn't easy to walk away from a confrontation, but the deceased could have, they chose not to. The man who pulled the trigger could have not pulled the trigger- but he made the choice to- now they are all paying the price- along with both families. My sypathies to all the people who have been affected by this senseless violence.

  • Always160 Nov 7, 2008

    mbmpcpro2 - I am a victim's family member and you are right I do not care about a defendant's family. Your family member made a CHOICE to ruin your family. My family member made a choice to go to work and was killed for doing his job! The reason no one gives you and sympathy is because you don't deserve it!! You get to write your family member, you get to see your family member but your family member took that from someone else and he had NO right to do so. I wish the death penalty was well and alive and I wish he was on death row where he should be!

  • luvmyjackrascal Nov 7, 2008

    mbmpcpro2

    You're right - lots of people got hurt by this - I am so sorry for your broken hearts - I can't imagine what their parents are going through. I served on a jury just last week, a rape case. It is antagonizing - if you make the wrong decision, you have ruined an innocent persons life. Thats why they tell you "beyond a reasonable doubt".

  • Sandollar Nov 7, 2008

    mbmpcpro2
    Through your comments we can feel your hurt. I also feel the hate in you. Does this hate follow through your family? No one but law enflorcement have guns in a public place like this one. You should be thanking God that Tim is not on death row. He should be. This story was about jurors. That is an insight many do not know or feel. Nothing wrong about featuring a story on juries. No one seems to want to be on a jury. If you are charged with a crime... who do you want on your jury? A fair impartial person/s. One that has morales.

  • Scarecrow Cow Nov 7, 2008

    mbmpcpro2, when I hear about crimes I feel like I'm the only one who ever thinks about the other person and his or her family. It is truly a tragedy how little people care about their fellow human beings, and I felt that way long before I had a family member of my own go to prison. Even though he did something many people say he should die for, I did not love him any less when I heard about his crime. He is so much more than the worst thing he ever did, and when he eventually gets out of prison I am going to be there for him in any way I can. And you know what, his crime was against another family member, so what do the authors of these articles have to say about us? My family is the victim's family as well as the criminal's family. I am so sorry your family is going through all of this, but please know that there are people out there who truly care about you and are also upset at sensationalist news that forgets that there are human beings behind these headlines.

  • dohicky Nov 7, 2008

    Should have gotten the death penalty. I have been on a jury for a murder trial and I could have given the death penalty but knew it would be a battle trying to get it out of the other jurors. Like one guy said, by the time this guy gets out of prison I will be dead and he won't bother me. Yeh, what about the rest of society!

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