“Jury Service is one of the highest duties of citizenship, for by it the citizen participates in the adminstration of justice.” Harlan F. Stone, Former Chief Justice of the United States
“In America, the power to decide if a person is guilty of an alleged violation of the law is granted entirely to the people. We randomly select residents of Starke County to come to the Courthouse, listen to the testimony of witnesses, discuss it among themselves, and then give us their final verdict.” Kim Hall, Judge, Starke Circuit Court
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Why must I serve on Jury Duty?
The Constitution of the United States and the State of Indiana guarantee defendants in criminal cases and litigants in civil cases the right to a trial by jury. Indiana law states that all litigants have the right to a jury selected from a fair cross section of the community and that all eligible citizens shall have both the opportunity and obligation to serve.
- How are people chosen to be summoned for jury service?
Jurors are randomly selected from a list compiled by the Indiana Supreme Court that includes over 90% of all adult residents of Starke County. A random selection of 500 names from that list is made at the beginning of each quarter. Juror Questionnaire forms are mailed, completed, and returned to the Court. An individual who qualifies for jury service must be a United States citizen; a Starke County resident; at least 18 years of age; able to understand and communicate in English; is not suffering from a physical or mental disability that would prevent the person from rendering satisfactory jury service; or is not under a guardianship because of mental incapacity.
During each quarter, numerous trials are scheduled. The Court determines how many individuals are needed to come to the Courthouse on a given day, and the computer program randomly selects that number from the 500 residents who are in the pool for that quarter. If you are selected, a Jury Summons will be mailed to you which will state that you need to report to the Court on a specific date for trial.
- Can I postpone my jury service?
Indiana law allows for a deferment, (postponement), of your service. Telephone, faxes, emails, letters, or your appearance in person are all acceptable methods of requesting a deferral. Generally, deferments are granted for hardships based upon physical impairments, important medical appointments, or similar significant hardships.
Jury Administrator, Donna Davis: 772-9191 FAX: 772-9120
- How long does a juror serve?
A person who appears for service as a juror serves until the conclusion of the trial in which the juror is sworn, regardless of the length of the trial or the manner in which the trial is disposed. A person who appears for service but is not selected and sworn as a juror completes their service when jury selection is completed and they are released by the Court.
Most trials last one or two days. Very few trials last longer than three days. The judge will inform the prospective jurors of the expected length of the trial.
- Is it true that sometimes jurors are not allowed to go home until after the trial is over? Is this common?
Jurors almost always go home at the end of the day and return the next morning. In extremely rare instances, a jury may be sequestered during the trial itself. “Sequestered means that jurors do not go home at the end of the day, but stay in a hotel, where their access to other people, radio, television news, or newspapers is limited. The Judge or Bailiff will inform you in advance if there is a possibility that the jury may be sequestered.
The expense of all meals and lodging for sequestered jurors is the responsibility of the Starke Circuit Court.
- Are jurors compensated?
Pursuant to Starke County policy and Indiana State law, the county will pay jurors a fee of $15 for appearing for selection and $40 for each day of physical attendance at a trial.
- What about transportation costs and parking?
In 2019, Starke County provides .38 cents per mile for each round trip made from the juror’s residence to the Courthouse as reimbursement for transportation costs. Parking around the Courthouse is free.
- What about issues related to the juror’s employment?
Indiana State law prohibits an employer from subjecting an employee to penalties or termination of employment due to jury service- so long as the employee notifies the employer upon receipt of the jury summons. The question of salary and wages is a matter to be addressed between the juror and the employer.
In order to verify to an employer that jury service was performed, jurors may request that Court staff provide them with a document to verify their service.
Jurors who believe that they have been penalized by their employer due to jury service should contact the Office of the Indiana Attorney General.
- Why am I summoned to report for trial and then later told that the trial has been canceled?
The Court notifies prospective jurors about 7 to 10 days before their appearance is necessary for the trial. As of that moment, all parties have represented to the court that they are ready to go to trial on the scheduled day. However, it is not unusual that the parties resolve all issues after the notices have been sent out. As soon as the court is informed that a trial is no longer needed, the court staff calls all prospective jurors and notifies them that the matter has been resolved. The Court attempts to avoid such inconveniences for jurors. Consequently, the Court generally declines to allow the parties to file untimely plea agreements, and in civil cases, the parties are advised that an untimely settlement may result in an assessment of costs. However, whether to settle a case, and the timing of any settlement of the matter being litigated, is in the hands of the parties.
- What is the possibility that a juror will be called again for service in the near future?
Jurors can request an exemption if they have served (received payment for) jury service within the past two years. If you have questions about whether you may be exempt because of prior jury service, ask the Jury Administrator. In the event that you are called again to serve in the next two years, notify the Jury Administrator if you do not wish to serve again.
- Are the same people summoned every few years?
No. However, although the process is random, fair, and impartial, it could result in your name being in the pool in consecutive years. Nevertheless, you receive a 2 year exemption from the date of your jury service in the Courthouse.
- How are jurors with disabilities accommodated?
If you have a disability and need a reasonable accommodation to allow you to serve, the Court will try to provide the services or auxiliary aids that you need. There are speakers in the Courtroom and the jury box. Assisted listening devices are available to assist those who are hearing impaired. Any access questions or requests for assistance can be conveyed to the Jury Administrator or Judge.
- Who else will be in the courtroom?
A number of people will be in the Courtroom in addition to the Judge and Jury. The list below explains who they are and what they may be doing.
Plaintiff – In a civil case, the plaintiff is the party who initiates the lawsuit by bringing the case to court.
Defendant – In a civil matter, the defendant is the party who is being sued. In a criminal case, the defendant is a person who has been charged with a crime.
Attorneys or Counsel – In certain cases, including criminal cases, attorneys representing the plaintiff, the defendant, or the government are referred to as counsel. An attorney representing the State of Indiana in a criminal case is called the prosecuting attorney.
Bailiff – The Bailiff is in charge of the jury. She will often escort you from the jury room to your courtroom seat. She provides the jury with paper, pens, food, drinks, and anything else that is needed for the jury to satisfactorily render its service.
Court Reporter – The Court Reporter records the official record of the trial by recording every word which is spoken. The Starke Circuit Court uses digital recording equipment and microphones are located throughout the courtroom. Every word spoken while we are “on the record” may later be converted into an official transcript of the trial.
Court Security Officer – The court security officer keeps order, maintains the security of the Court, and assists the Judge and the Jury as needed.
Witnesses – Witnesses provide testimony, under oath, as to what they have seen, heard, or otherwise observed regarding the case.
Interpreter – Interpreters, under oath, provide language interpretation for the court on behalf of a non-English speaking or hearing impaired party or witness.
Courtroom Observers – All jury trials are open to the public. The Starke Circuit Court has seventy-four seats available for those who wish to observe the proceedings.
If you have any other questions about jury duty, you may contact the court during regular business hours and speak with the Jury Administrator, Donna Davis. Her direct telephone number is 772-9191.