Jurors risk post-trial trauma, study finds

Jurors are primed for trauma and need more social and psychological support, says a new report from psychologists at the University of Leicester, reported The Globe and Mail March 27.

Most respondents found deliberation more stressful than visually gruesome evidence, especially when jurors felt pressure from others to change their verdict.

That finding doesn’t surprise James Morton, a Toronto lawyer who teaches classes about evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

"One hears rumours of nasty arguments, occasionally even leading to physical confrontations in the jury room. People take very different positions and they are mandated to come to a unanimous decision in the criminal cases. . . . You can imagine there’d be intimidation, pressure and ‘gosh, we all want to go home Friday and be done with it.’ "

Unlike American jurors, Canadian and British jurors are sworn to secrecy both during and after the trial. And unlike jurors in the US, they are often not sequestered, which means they must travel home nightly with their experiences.

Although Morton believes the Canadian system works, he admits that Canadian jurors "are not treated perhaps as well as they should be."

"You’re taken out of your ordinary life and put into a highly stressful difficult situation…. They get a trivial amount of money on a daily basis and they’re herded into rather uncomfortable, beat-up waiting rooms. It’s not a pleasant process."

The study also calls for a questionnaire that would save jurors the trauma of cases that might resonate with their own past experiences.

In Canada, jurors get very little probing on their background. Morton pointed out that a juror who can’t bring himself or herself themselves to look at the evidence and derails the trial is far costlier than a questionnaire.

Legal experts criticize Ottawa’s move to restrict credit for pre-trial custody

The infamous Toronto (Don) Jail is the penal poster child in the debate over whether people awaiting trial should get two-for-one credit or more for so-called "dead time", wrote the Toronto Star March 27.

Today, the federal government is tabling legislation, announced earlier this week, to restrict judges from handing out credit for time served. 

Critics say the federal government’s move to block credit for time served is a matter of smoke and mirrors since receiving such credit does not mean prisoners end up serving less time in custody. Pre-trial custody does not count toward parole eligibility, explained James Stribopoulos, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

"Giving enhanced credit for pre-trial custody is meant to provide some redress for the fundamental unfairness that would otherwise result, unfairness that the Conservatives now wish to legally mandate," Stribopoulos said.

Yet, although Ontario jails are packed with people awaiting their day in court, judges are not randomly handing out credit for pre-trial custody, said the Star.

"While some defendants do deliberately rack up so-called ‘dead time’ in order to reduce their ultimate sentence, (a judge) has the authority to refuse to grant enhanced credit," Stribopoulos said.

In other words, "it is less than clear that this is a problem in need of a legislative solution," he said. "Instead, it looks like pure and simple exploitation of the criminal justice system to score political points with the electorate, on an issue few would understand without a full explanation and at the expense of an easy target, convicted criminals."

Recent York grad hit by truck as she talked on phone

The moment before she died, Soraya Nanji (BAS ’07), 28, was laughing on her cellphone with a good friend, reported the Toronto Star March 27. "’Oh my God,’ I heard her say," her friend, Tylar Bertie, told the Star.

The phone dropped from Nanji’s hand as she walked along Front Street just before 10 o’clock Wednesday night. Trucks honked in the background and cars drove by.

Bertie, who was at her parents’ home in Richmond Hill at the time, later saw a news flash on TV about a young woman hit by a truck while talking on the phone. She knew it was her friend. "She was just an amazing, amazing person who always saw the best in people," said Bertie.

Nanji, an administrative assistant in sales and marketing, had worked at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre since July, said her boss David Chisholm, who said his staff was still reeling from the news.

Born in Uganda, Nanji grew up in Vancouver, where she met her current roommates. She completed a bachelor of administrative studies at York University in 2007.

Investor say-on-pay bid rejected by Manulife board

Manulife Financial Corp. yesterday rejected shareholder appeals for a say on pay and awarded Dominic D’Alessandro a compensation package worth more than $25 million, reported the National Post March 27.

The dismissal of investor appeals for a vote on executive compensation defies a trend that has seen the rest of Canada’s top financial institutions each agree in the past month to give shareholders a voice on compensation.

"Say on pay is fast becoming the standard," said Edward Waitzer, Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Schulich School of Business.

Teachers pension plan may advise smaller plans

Ontario may turn its largest pension fund, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, into an even bigger entity that could manage money for civil servants, university endowments and other groups, reported The Globe and Mail March 27.

Teachers spokeswoman Deborah Allan said the pension plan is supportive of the proposed changes to its mandate, and "we commend the Ontario government for moving as quickly as it has on responding to the Arthurs Expert Commission on Pensions report."

The government announced the Expert Commission on Pensions, led by Harry Arthurs, former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and former president of York University, in November, 2006, and it disbanded last fall after it issued its final report.

Among the ideas it suggested was the notion that larger pension plans have a number of advantages over smaller plans. "The commission did endorse the idea that growth of large-scale pension plans was to be encouraged," said Kathryn Bush, a lawyer in the pension and employee benefits group at Blakes and a member of the expert commission.  

Cash-strapped campuses get a $150-million lifeline

Among measures aimed at boosting research and training is $35-million in capital spending to create 100 new spaces at existing medical schools, said The Globe and Mail March 27 in a story about the Ontario budget’s provisions for postsecondary education. Absent, however, is a response to efforts by York University to get its own medical school, said the Globe.

York and Southlake health centre step up cooperation

If you have been following the astounding progress Southlake has made in the last decade, as it transforms from a community hospital to a leading regional health centre, you should not be surprised to learn that Southlake is now also taking a leadership role when it comes to research, wrote Yorkregion.com March 26 in a story about the Newmarket, Ont.-based Southlake Regional Health Centre.

Recently David Tulbert joined the Research Institute team as a research liaison specialist to advance research opportunities between York Universityfaculty and graduate students and Southlake staff and physicians. Tulbert’s appointment creates an opportunity for Southlake clinicians to work with York academics and scientists in pursuit of projects of common interest.

On air

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri talked to Matt Galloway (BA Hons. ’94) about York’s 50th birthday on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” (Toronto) March 26. Listen to the interview here.

Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, talked about Canadians’ impressions of the RCMP in the wake of BC’s Taser inquiry, on Calgary’s CHQR-AM March 26. 

Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, talked about restrictions on television advertising of prescription drugs, on CBC Radio’s regional news program in Montreal March 26.