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Jurors in traumatic trials need counselling and support, not just ‘a coffee and a handshake’: advocate

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Patrick Fleming spent 10 months as a juror on a high-profile murder trial, listening to the disturbing evidence in the case of a young woman who had hired hitmen to kill her parents.

“I don’t think you can ever really prepare yourself for these things,” said Fleming.

“You see it on TV, you listen to it, you hear about it … it’s different when you hear about it sitting in a courtroom, watching and listening to the accused and what was done,” he told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.

When it ended in January 2015, Fleming said, there was “a handshake and a cup of coffee, and out the back door we went.” 

Fleming was a juror on the Toronto-area trial of Jennifer Pan, who was eventually sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of her mother, and the attempted murder of her father, who survived with a critical head injury. The jury heard graphic details of the crime, including the 911 call from the night of the attack, and “heartbreaking” testimony from Pan’s father.

The trial had left Fleming feeling isolated from his family. “You’re [just not] there, emotionally or physically,” he said.

But at the time, there was no counselling support available for jurors.

Despite recommendations from the justice committee last year, advocates argue there is still a lack of counselling and support for jurors in Canada. (Shutterstock)

That has since changed in Ontario, where free counselling for jurors was introduced in January 2017, after a former juror spoke to CBC News about the PTSD he suffered following a trial.

While some other provinces have followed suit, including B.C. in May 2018, Fleming said there are still big differences from province to province, with some not offering counselling services.

In May 2017, Fleming was one of 12 former jurors who wrote what he called “12 angry letters” to then-federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, calling for a national program of support for jurors who suffer trauma.

The campaign resulted in a May 2018 report from the justice committee, recommending that jurors be offered comprehensive psychological support, and be compensated with at least $120 a day.

Currently, it’s up to employers in most provinces whether they pay a juror’s wages in their absence. The daily stipend also varies: Albertans get $50 a day; in Ontario jurors get $40 a day after the 10th day, then $100 a day after the 50th. Quebecers get $103 a day until the 57th day, when it rises to $160.

“Jurors should not be disadvantaged financially or psychologically as a result of conducting their civic duty,” the report states, adding that better services could increase overall confidence in the justice system.

In 2015, Jennifer Pan was found guilty of both first-degree murder and attempted murder for her role in the phoney home invasion of her parents’ house in 2010. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

Wilson-Raybould responded to the report last August, saying she was committed to finding ways to better assist jurors.

Fleming wants to see the recommendations implemented across the country.

“I don’t think it’s fair that there should be a patchwork, that some provinces and territories have different healthcare for that support,” Fleming said.

“We’re really striving to get that national support.”

Montreal MP David Lametti took over the justice portfolio in a cabinet shuffle on Monday.

Illegal to discuss certain details with a counsellor

Despite having to review graphic evidence while serving as a juror in a murder trial, Michaela Swan cannot talk freely to a counsellor about the experience’s emotional toll.

“I did go through a few counselling sessions myself following my jury duty — just to process things — and I sat there saying: ‘I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you this,'” Swan told Tremonti.

Under Canadian law, it is a criminal offence for former jurors to discuss details of deliberations, even with medical professionals.

For Swan, that has meant difficulties in processing her time as a juror in the murder trial of Tyler Myers, in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Tyler Myers, 22, was killed by a gunshot wound, and found on the Bastion Elementary school yard in Salmon Arm on Nov. 21, 2008. (Facebook)

In 2008, Myers, 22, was lured to Bastion Elementary school yard by his 17-year-old girlfriend Monica Sikorski, where he was shot and killed by her other, 16-year-old boyfriend. Swan was a juror in the trial of the male accused, who was found guilty and sentenced as a minor. He cannot be named because of his age at the time of the murder.

During the trial, autopsy pictures were used to show the damage done by the bullets, Swan said.

Michaela Swan served as a juror on a murder trial in 2016. (Submitted by Michaela Swan)

“That was quite intense … that’s when we got the pictures of the body, and the actual crime scene, which was in an elementary school field,” she said.

She had also been affected by the details of the undercover operation used to catch the suspects.

“In the park, when my kids were playing on the playground … it just made me question, I’m like; ‘I wonder if that’s an undercover operation,'” she said. 

When the trial ended, Swan was told no counselling supports were available.

“I was back to work on the Monday morning, and my brain was just — it was a mess.”

She said she couldn’t stop thinking about the decision they had reached, and if it was the right one.

In late October, Conservative MP Michael Cooper introduced a private member’s bill, Bill C-417, to allow jurors to disclose that information during medical treatment.

“No one should be unable to get mental health treatment for simply doing their civic duty,” Cooper said at the time.

Private member’s bills do not usually pass, but Bill C-417 has all-party support. It has now been sent for its second reading.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper introduced Bill C-417, to allow jurors to discuss deliberations with medical professionals. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

‘I really felt listened to’

Fleming and Swan were among the former jurors invited to testify before the House of Commons justice committee in May 2017, leading to the committee’s report a year later.

The committee also heard from legal experts and medical professionals who stated that jurors can experience nightmares, trouble sleeping, new phobias, outbursts of anger, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.

“I really felt listened to,” Swan said about her appearance before the committee. She added, however, that she was “a little bit disappointed with the implications of the changes that still haven’t been made.”

I don’t think that bullet ever stops. It may stop travelling, but I don’t think it ever stops emotionally– Patrick Fleming

Both Swan and Fleming would serve on a jury again, they said, but they want national change so that Canadians who serve on future juries will be protected.

“I don’t think that bullet ever stops. It may stop travelling, but I don’t think it ever stops emotionally,” Fleming said.

“It has a huge impact on people.”


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Jesscia Linzey and Joan Webber as part of The Current’s One Bullet series.  

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Health Ranger posts new microscopy photos of covid swabs, covid masks and mysterious red and blue fibers

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(Natural News) What follows is a series of microscopy photos of covid swabs (a synthetic swab, then a cotton swab), a covid mask and some zoomed-in photos of mysterious red and blue fibers found in the masks.

The magnification range for these photos is 50X to 200X. Most were taken with white light, but several (as indicated) were taken with UV light.

The images shown here are 600 pixels wide. We have higher resolution images available to researchers and indy media journalists; contact us for those hi-res images.

More microscopy investigations are under way, and new images will be posted as they are finalized.

First, this series shows the carbon fiber layer of a covid mask, illuminated with UV light:

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5,800 test positive, 74 die of coronavirus at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated

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(Natural News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, April 15, confirmed some 5,800 breakthrough coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S.

A breakthrough COVID-19 case is defined as someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated against the disease.

Nearly 400 breakthrough cases required treatment at hospitals and 74 died. A little over 40 percent of the infections were in people 60 years and above and 65 percent were female. About 29 percent of the vaccine breakthrough infections were reportedly asymptomatic. The figures were for cases through April 13.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the causes of the breakthrough cases are being probed. “Some of these breakthroughs are, of course, failure of an immune response in the host. And then some of them we worry might be related to a variant that is circulating. So we’re looking at both,” she said.

The CDC is monitoring reported cases “for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.” It has created a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough database, where state health departments can enter, store and manage data for cases in their region.

Where available, respiratory specimens that tested positive for COVID-19 will be collected for genomic sequencing “to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.”

Positive test less than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated is not a breakthrough case

The number of cases the CDC has identified does not include people who contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after their final dose. The two-week marker is important, said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A human body should have enough time to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after that timeframe. Before then, a person won’t necessarily have the built-up immunity needed to fight off an infection. According to Dr. Adalja, cases that occur before the two-week mark are not considered breakthrough cases.

Dr. Adalja also noted that more research is needed to determine if highly infectious variants of the virus are behind the breakthrough cases. “It is crucial to study breakthrough cases to understand their severity, their contagiousness and what role variants may be playing,” Dr. Adalja said.

More than 78 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 15.

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”

But the CDC conceded that “thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed with the CDC. “These vaccines that we’re using are fabulous but they’re not perfect,” he said. “At best, they’re 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness, but minor illnesses can occur.”

According to U.S. drug regulators, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection. Moderna’s was shown in a clinical trial to be 94.1 percent effective while Johnson & Johnson’s was 66.9 percent effective. Only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received its emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, was tested when variants were circulating.

The percentages are based on results from vaccine recipients two weeks after the final vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in a briefing last week that the breakthrough cases are not a cause for concern.

“I think the important thing is to look at what the denominator of vaccinated people is. Because it is very likely that the number of breakthrough cases is not at all incompatible with the 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy,” he said. “So I don’t think that there needs to be concern about any shift or change in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

More info needed before drawing conclusions from breakthrough cases

The percentage of vaccine breakthroughs in a population depends on multiple factors, including vaccine efficacy, the amount of virus circulating and the length of time since vaccination, according to Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.

“I love to see small numbers as much as anyone, but know that numbers like this cannot be directly interpreted as a measure of vaccine efficacy (although I have a feeling they will be). We can only interpret them against a background rate in unvaccinated people,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

“Similarly, ‘most breakthroughs have been in elderly adults’ should not be read as the vaccine is less effective in elderly adults. The majority of vaccinations (and the longest amount of follow-up time) have been in elderly adults. Again, we need more info to interpret.”

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More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year

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(Natural News) More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Francisco last year, a microcosm of a larger nationwide problem coinciding with the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, an astonishing 118 times more since the introduction of the drug in the city just five years earlier.

That figure nearly tripled the 254 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the city for the whole of last year. More than 8 in 10 deaths were male, and just under half were white. People aged 55 to 64 made up nearly a quarter of the fatalities. Nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in open-air drug markets such as the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The number of overdose deaths in the city could have been far worse as more than 3,000 addicts suffering from an overdose were administered with naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.

San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl overdose continues to rise this year as 135 died by overdose in January and February, putting the city on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.

The city has become a significant part of a larger trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on Wednesday, April 14, showing that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose over the 12-month period that ended in September last year – the highest since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s.

Lockdowns lead to more cases of drug overdose

The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis that may be correlated to the government’s monotonous battle plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement a stay-at-home order. It subsequently endured the longest lockdown of any state in the country.

The pandemic and accompanying lockdowns are believed to be partly responsible for the soaring number of drug deaths for obvious reasons. Lockdowns have badly disrupted the social services in the city, including drug addiction treatment. Drug experts say the isolation of the past 12 months is causing vulnerable residents to turn to opioids.

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us,” said Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. “It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

Fentanyl first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 2015. There were just six deaths from the synthetic opioid that year, 12 deaths in 2016 and 37 deaths in 2017. The figure skyrocketed when the drugs became widely available in the city in 2018.

Kristen Marshall, manager of the national drug harm reduction DOPE Project, noted the grim irony that while social isolation could save lives from COVID-19, it had undoubtedly contributed to the number of overdose deaths.

“Isolation is also the thing that puts people at the absolute highest risk of overdose death,” she said.

Pandemic exacerbates rise in deaths from drug overdose

The number of deaths from drug overdose started rising in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, making it hard to gauge how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend. The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect.

Many treatment programs closed during that time while drop-in centers, which provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, cut back services.

The data released by the CDC shows a 29 percent rise in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020 compared with the previous 12-month period. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were the primary drivers, although many fatal overdoses have also involved stimulant drugs like methamphetamine.

Unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a national addiction conference last week.

“And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.”

Dr. Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

“Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supported Dr. Volkow’s claim, saying that transnational criminal organizations cause a spike in overdoses by mixing fentanyl into illicit narcotics.

According to the DEA, Mexican cartels often purchase the drug components in China and use human mules to smuggle the narcotics to lucrative drug markets north of the border.

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