Murder trials can take a toll on jurors
Posted November 6, 2008 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated October 12, 2011 9:50 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.