Follow Up: Jury Summons Issued to the Dead and the Young

An Action 16 Investigation into jury pools now has the attention of the Pennsylvania court system.

This year, Luzerne County sent jury summons to a 12-year-old boy and a woman who had been dead for a year.

A spokesperson for the state court system said things like this are happening all over Pennsylvania.

Spokesman Art Heinz of Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said the problems started showing up recently, just a year after the state court system took measures it claimed would diversify the pool of people who serve on juries.

This kind of diversity never meant having jurors like Connor Smith of Swoyersville, who received a summons a month before entering seventh grade.

“I have no idea how I could get jury duty when i`m only 12,” said Smith

Getting a better cross-section of jurors certainly didn`t mean including the late Florence Skowronski of Duryea.

The court sent a jury summons to her son-in-law`s home. And then a follow-up letter warning Florence, she could be held in contempt of court for failing to show.

“What`s going on?” asked her son-in-law Ed Jones. “She`s been dead almost a whole year, and they`re sending her this?”

“We`ve identified some areas where we can do a better job,” said Art Heinz.

Heinz said the problems result from a new state law demanding more diverse juries than those previously chosen in the past from only a list of  registered voters and licensed drivers.

Court Officers in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas claimed juries tended to be whiter, and older than the population as a whole. For more diverse juries, courts needed to go outside the list of registered voters, and licensed drivers.  So the state added lists provided by the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Public Welfare.

Heinz said a review found that kids pop up in jury pools because some of their names now come from the Department of Revenue.

That department does not list a date of birth, potentially putting kids with part-time jobs, or who paid an inheritance tax into the jury pool.

Heinz said that is just one problem now being fixed to reduce the chances of someone wrongly getting a jury summons.

“We do take those instances, even though they are few and far between seriously,” said Heinz.

Heinz said that the AOPC wants to reassure those who take jury duty seriously that the agency plans to correct the problem of sending summons to the deceased by updating it`s lists more often.

That should decrease the chances of someone who has been dead for several months being called to serve on a jury.

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