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In-person Connections and Conversation with Jimmy Fisher Ph.D.: A Psychoanalyst Serves on a Jury

October 28, 2023 @ 5:00pm - 6:30pm EDT

Free meeting with the ICP community in LA open to all.  Most psychoanalysts never serve on a jury. This essay narrates my experience of being juror number 11 for nine days. This criminal trial involved horrific allegations of rape, sodomy, kidnapping, armed robbery, and brutal beating. The case also involved issues of race and of violence. After attempting unsuccessfully to get dismissed from the jury pool, I did my civic duty, following the rule of law and the facts of the case. Simultaneously, I conducted a thought experiment, that is, using psychoanalytic methods to track the various dimensions of participating in this intense and gruesome court case. I tried to be empathic to all members of the trial, including the perpetrator, the victim, the witnesses, the attorneys, and the judge. I monitored the affects of the various participants and my own subjective and emotional reactions. I tracked the transference and countertransference. I focused on body language and the verbal cues of all involved. Because I was traumatized by serving on the jury, writing this paper enabled me to work through some of my own difficulties triggered by jury service. I conclude by suggesting possible ways in which future jurors might be able to manage and reflect upon the secondary trauma of witnessing such heinous crimes, including the processing of the guilt and shame of making judgments which will have lifelong consequences for the major participants in this story.

Debbie Steinke