The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) has launched a statewide pilot program to assist jurors who are exposed to gruesome details during certain murder and sex offense trials.
The purpose of the Juror Assistance Program, effective January 1, 2012, is to help jury members cope with emotional and psychological issues that may arise due to their participation on such trials. The program is available to a limited class of cases where experience shows a need for the resource, as determined by the presiding judge.
If a trial judge of a murder and sexual offense case determines that the evidence is such a nature that it might cause mental distress, jurors will be provided a toll free number where they may contact a licensed mental health professional.
Jurors will receive one confidential telephonic triage or face-to-face assessment. During the assessment, the participant's needs will be identified and appropriate resources recommended. If additional counseling is needed beyond the initial visit, the participant will be referred either to a provider within his or her health plan or to an affordable community resource.
The program is administered by Deer Oaks EAP Services. Deer Oaks care coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Participants shall also have unlimited online services access to a password protected website, deeroaks.com. Deer Oaks uses its website to provide online EAP resources, products, and services. Using the website, jurors can receive information regarding Deer Oaks EAP services, answer self-assessment questionnaires, and participate in online discussion forums, online support chats, and bulletin boards.
The future of the Juror Assistance Program will be determined at the end of the year after its costs and effectiveness have been evaluated.