There are two Jury Commissioners who serve Centre County. The position is an elected position whose term is four years. The Jury Commissioners administer the criminal and civil jury selection process.
The right to a trial by jury is guaranteed by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. The effectiveness of the jury system depends upon citizens' willingness to serve, as well as jurors' ability to be fair and impartial while deciding the facts and applying the law. While jury service may sometimes be inconvenient, it is an extremely important civic duty. Without citizens willing to serve as jurors, the judicial system would come to a standstill. Many jurors find the experience to be interesting, educational and rewarding.
Jurors in Centre County are randomly selected from the voter registration and driver license listings. Upon receipt of a jury summons, it is important to read all the information contained within it and to complete the questionnaire and return it to the Court Administrator within five days.
Commonly Asked Questions
Who is eligible to serve?
Anyone 18 years of age or older who is a United States citizen and a resident of Centre County and who has not been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and has not been granted a pardon or amnesty.
Will I be paid for serving as a juror?
Yes, $9 per day for the first three days (including jury selection) and $25 per day thereafter, plus 17 cents a mile for transportation to and from the courthouse. These fees are set by the state legislature.
What if my employer doesn't allow me to serve?
The law prohibits any employer from preventing an employee to serve as a juror. The law also prohibits an employer from depriving a juror of benefits because of jury service, such as requiring you to use vacation time to serve.
Is my employer required to pay me while I serve as a juror?
Employers are not required by law to compensate you while serving on jury duty. Please check to see if your employer has a policy regarding juror compensation.
Is it possible to appear for jury service and not sit on a jury?
Yes. More people are called than actually serve because it is not always possible to estimate accurately the number of jurors who will be needed to serve. If you are not selected for a trial, your jury service is concluded.
How long will I serve?
Jury selection is generally accomplished in one day. Jury trials are of varying length. A typical Centre County juror serves an average of 2½ days (including selection).
May I go home at the end of the day?
Jurors almost always go home at the end of the day. If a jury is sequestered (a term used to describe jurors who are housed during the trial at the expense of the county), the jurors will be advised of this during the selection process. Sequestration rarely occurs.
Are accommodations available if I have a disability?
The Courthouse is accessible for special accommodations. Please call the Court Administrator's Office at 355-6727 at least 72 hours prior to appearance regarding special accommodations.
How often do I have to serve as a juror?
There is no limit on the number of times your name may be drawn for service. In Pennsylvania, however, anyone who has served on a trial as a juror fewer than three days does not need to serve again for one year. Anyone who has served three or more days does not have to serve again for three years.
What kinds of cases will I hear as a juror?
Jurors hear either criminal or civil cases.
In criminal cases, a district attorney acting on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania prosecutes a case against an individual or an entity accused of a crime. The district attorney is also referred to as the prosecutor. The person or entity accused of the crime is referred to as the defendant.
In civil cases, an individual, entity or governmental agency brings a suit against another individual, entity or governmental agency. The party initiating the lawsuit is referred to as the plaintiff, and the party defending the suit is the defendant.
What is the role of a juror?
- Listen carefully to all evidence presented during the trial.
- During deliberations, discuss the evidence with fellow jurors and decide what the facts are, based upon which witnesses and evidence you believe.
- Apply the law, as explained by the judge, to the facts, as determined by you.
- Do no independent research or investigation.
- Determine the money damages in some civil cases.
- In criminal cases, decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
- Arrive at a verdict.
What is the role of the judge?
- Make sure all parties have a fair opportunity to present their case.
- Make sure the trial process proceeds in a proper manner.
- Instruct the jury on the applicable law.
- Decide the punishment in most criminal cases.
What is voir dire?
Voir dire is a French term that refers to the preliminary examination of an individual's qualifications to be a juror. Voir dire is sometimes conducted by the judge and sometimes by the lawyers. The purpose is to find out whether any views held by the potential juror hinder his or her ability to act impartially. Therefore, it is very important to answer honestly.
What is the trial process?
- Jury Selection
- Jury Sworn-in
- Opening Instructions by Judge
- Opening Statements by Attorneys
- Presentation of Evidence
- Closing Arguments
- Judge's Instructions or Jury Charge
- Deliberation by Jury
- Dismissal of Jury
What is the deliberation process?
The judge explains the law and provides guidance on procedures to be followed in jury deliberations. One of the first things the jury does during deliberations is to choose a foreperson. The foreperson should make sure each juror has a chance to speak; each juror's opinion is treated with respect; the jury does not rush to a verdict; jurors carefully listen to one another; and they return a fair and impartial verdict based upon the facts of the case.
In criminal cases, a unanimous verdict is required to find the defendant guilty. In civil cases, it is a five-sixths vote of the jury.
What happens after the jury reaches a verdict?
Once a jury reaches a verdict, the foreperson informs the court that the jury has reached a verdict, and everyone returns to the courtroom. The verdict will then be announced. After the verdict is announced and recorded, the jury has completed its duties and is discharged.
After being discharged, jurors are permitted, but not required, to talk about the case. Jurors are not permitted, however, to disclose what another juror said in the jury room. If anyone attempts to communicate with a juror regarding his or her role as a juror in a way that one feels is improper, the juror should report the incident to the court as soon as possible.
- Know your schedule for several months following the date your are scheduled to report for jury selection.
- Dress comfortably, but appropriately for the courtroom setting.
- Get directions to the Courthouse in advance, if you're not familiar with the location of the Courthouse, to avoid being late.
- Allow enough time to find a parking space. Remember to read the parking instructions contained in the summons packet.