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Jury Service Handbook
Jury Service

LEHIGH COUNTY JUROR'S MANUAL
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
THIRTY-FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT
GAYLE M. FISHER, JURY COORDINATOR
REVISED: FEBRUARY, 1999

The effectiveness of the jury system depends upon your willingness to serve as well as your honesty, integrity and judgment.

To meet your responsibility, you are expected to decide the facts and apply the law fairly and impartially.

The performance of jury service is the fulfillment of a civic obligation. Conscientious service brings its own reward in the satisfaction of an important task well done. There is no more valuable contribution a citizen performs than that of being a juror. Equally important, we hope that your service as a juror will provide you with greater insight and appreciation for all that is involved in the administration of justice.

The Board of Judges expresses its appreciation to you for your service.

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The Juror's Creed

THE JUROR'S CREED
(ADOPTED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA BAR ASSOCIATION)

I am a juror, I accept the position not only as an honor but as my solemn duty.

I will remember the men who died to give us, and retain us, the right of trial by jury, and I will reflect upon the fate of those people whose government gives them no such right.

I will act with the realization that the success of the jury system depends upon the willingness of men and women of integrity and intelligence to accept jury service, and upon the fidelity with which they discharge that responsibility.

I will respect the education, training and experience of the judge.

I will listen attentively to all the evidence, the arguments of counsel, and the judge's instructions, and will thoughtfully and impartially weigh the issues.

During the trial I will not discuss the case with the others nor permit others to discuss it with me; neither will I read about it in the newspapers, nor listen to broadcasts about it.

While hearing a case I will keep an open mind until the case is finally submitted to the jury.

I will observe legal procedure not as red tape, but as a device developed through thousands of years for the protection of the people.

I will consider all the evidence fully and fairly uninfluenced by friendship, sympathy, bias, or prejudice.

I will work with my fellow jurors in a spirit of tolerance and understanding and will endeavor to bring the deliberation of the whole jury to a true and honest verdict.

The Importance of Jury Service

When our ancestors came to the United States, they brought with them the concept of trial by jury. This great privilege, which they regarded as their birthright, protected them from the oppressive power of the king and the arbitrary or partial judgment of the court. It is not surprising, then, that the Founding Fathers incorporated the concept of trial by jury into the Constitution of the United States. Article III, Section 2, and the Sixth and Seventh Amendments provide each of us with this fundamental and basic right. Accompanying this right and privilege, however, is the obligation to participate actively in the judicial process as a juror. The successful operation of the judicial system which is designed to protect the rights of each of us depends upon the willingness of men and women of sound judgment and absolute honesty and fairness to serve.

Jury Selection and Management in Lehigh County

Each month approximately 2,000 prospective jurors are summoned under the direction of the Court Administrator and the Board of Judges. The selection is at random by computer from the drivers' license list.

Arriving jurors check in and are seated in the jury assembly room. After all the jurors have arrived, they are greeted by a representative of the Court Administrator's office and are given a general description of what to expect while on Jury Duty.

Following orientation, jury panels are selected for service in the various courtrooms.

Alcohol Policy

Because of the nature of your duties, it is obvious that there must be a policy prohibiting consumption of alcoholic beverages before and during scheduled court hours. Therefore, do not drink while you are serving as a juror. Because this is the policy of this court, any violation of this policy may result in a juror being held in contempt of court.

Dress Policy

Proper attire is required. You should dress the way you would for a job interview. Blue jeans, shorts and tee shirts are not suitable.

Courtroom Etiquette

A court session begins when the court crier raps for order. Everyone in the court rises when the Judge enters and the court crier announces the opening of court. When court adjourns, a similar procedure is used. Common courtesy and politeness are safe guides as to the way you should act. Miscellaneous reading materials such as newspapers or magazines should not be read in the courtroom. Conversations with other jurors should be avoided during the trial.

You will be treated with consideration and your comfort and convenience will be served whenever possible. You should bring to the attention of the judge any matter affecting your service and should notify the court of any emergencies. In the event of a personal emergency, you may send word to the judge through any court officer or you may ask to see the judge privately.

You should not spend your idle time in the corridors or vestibules. Embarrassing contacts may occur there with persons who may be involved in the case.

Conduct of the Jury during the trial

Listen closely to the testimony. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules prohibit note taking by jurors. Discard your prejudices. Follow the court's instructions. Render a verdict according to your best judgment. You should keep an open mind throughout the trial. Do not discuss the case before the testimony is completed and the case is submitted to you by the judge.

Human experience shows that sometimes one who expresses their views prematurely may hesitate to change them. Therefore, you are urged to withhold expressing your views until the trial judge tells you that it is appropriate for you to begin your deliberation.

During the course of a trial, the jury may hear references to the rules of evidence. Some of these rules may appear strange to non-lawyers. However, each rule has a purpose. The rules are the result of hundreds of years of experience in the trial of cases.

The opening and closing statements of the lawyers are not evidence. You should disregard any statements made by a lawyer as to the law of the case if it is not in accord with the judge's instructions.

Use the experience, common sense and common knowledge you possess. Do not, however, rely on any private sources of information. Thus, you should be careful during the trial not to discuss the case at home or elsewhere. Information received from outside sources may be inaccurate.

If during the trial you receive outside information about the case, you should inform the court immediately. Do not mention any such fact in the jury room.

You should never inspect, on your own, the scene of an accident or of any event in the case. If an inspection is necessary, the judge will arrange for the jurors to go to the scene as a group.

You must not talk about the case with others on the jury and must not read about the case in the newspapers. You should avoid radio and television broadcasts that might mention the case since the jury's verdict must be based only on the evidence.

If any outsider attempts to talk with you about a case in which you are serving as a member of the jury, you should do the following:

  1. Tell the person it is improper for a juror to discuss the case or receive any information except in the courtroom.
  2. Refuse to listen if the outsider persists.
  3. Immediately report the incident to the judge.

You should refrain from talking on any subject with any lawyer, witness, or party in the case. Such a contact may make a new trial necessary.

Some cases, such as those involving a homicide, may arouse much public discussion. It is sometimes necessary to keep the jury separate from other parties involved in the case until the verdict is reached. This procedure is called "sequestration" and is used to protect the jurors against outside influences.

In the Jury Room

In Lehigh County the jurors elect the foreperson of the jury. The foreperson is the one who will preside over the jury's deliberations and should afford every juror a fair opportunity to express their views.

Enter the discussion with an open mind and freely exchange your views. You have a duty to give full consideration to the opinion of your fellow jurors. You should try to reach a verdict whenever possible. In civil cases agreements of ten (10) of the twelve (12) jurors is required for a verdict. In criminal cases all of the jurors must agree to the verdict, that is, the jury's verdict must be unanimous.

The members of the jury are sworn to pass judgment on the facts in a particular case.

What occurs in the jury room may remain secret. You may decline to answer questions asked by any lawyer or any other person relating to a case or your deliberations as jurors in a case on which you have served. In the interest of justice, however, a judge may order you to reveal information deemed appropriate.

You have the duty to report to the judge any improper behavior by any juror and the duty to inform the judge of any outside communication or improper conduct by any person directed at the jury.

Explanation of some legal terms

We have prepared a glossary of the more frequently used terms.

View the Jury Service Glossary

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