Former Bernardo jurors advocate for mental-health support
By The Canadian Press
It’s been 25 years but Tina Daenzer is still haunted by notorious serial killer and rapist Paul Bernardo.
She was one of the jurors at a trial in 1995 that convicted Bernardo of offences that included two first-degree murders and two aggravated sexual assaults.
Daenzer and juror activist Mark Farrant were in Ottawa on Thursday for the second reading of a Senate bill that proposes more mental-health support for jury members.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Daenzer said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Those videos we had to watch in that courtroom were horrific. It was girls being raped, tortured, begging for their lives.
“I didn’t just watch them once. We watched them over and over again. At night I would go home and replay them in my head.”
Daenzer said that every time Bernardo comes up for parole, she gets the jitters, wondering what would happen if he got out and whether he would track her down.
“To be honest, after 25 years I still would never go walk in a park by myself. I don’t like to walk in the dark by myself. It’s those little things that even after all this time changed my life dramatically.”
A Conservative private member’s bill last year to help jurors moved easily through the House of Commons but ended up sitting in the Senate.
The new bill is aimed at improving mental-health support for jury members who serve in gruesome trials and suffer stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It also seeks to amend Section 649 of the Criminal Code on jury secrecy. Current legislation prohibits jurors from ever talking about their deliberations, which can prevent them from seeking help.
Farrant, who’s the driving force behind the reform, said there’s no difference between last year’s bill and the new one.
“This bill is needed in order to provide (jurors) with the care that they deserve,” Farrant said.
“It’s just to loosen the restrictions to allow a juror to discuss aspects of the trial and deliberations with a doctor. Jurors carry the weight of that experience with them throughout their whole lives.”
Farrant became an advocate after he developed post-traumatic stress disorder following a 2014 murder trial in Ontario and experienced challenges getting health care.
Daenzer said she was also diagnosed with PTSD.
The two also appeared before the Commons finance committee Thursday to request financial support in the next budget for jurors needing help.
As well, they have created the Canadian Juries Commission to ensure that jurors have a national voice and that they are supported in all aspects of jury duty in every province and territory.
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