Jury selection commenced in Huntingdon County Tuesday after a six-month COVID-related hiatus and will continue through the end of the week.
Eight criminal cases, all scheduled for trial in October, are the focus of this week’s selection process which has been modified to keep prospective jurors and court staff safe during the pandemic.
At the conclusion of the morning session, Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic said he was pleased with operations and thanked all parties for their work.
“This went much better than expected and was very organized,” the judge said. “the efforts of the staff, the sheriff’s department, the county commissioners, everyone, came together to make this a success.”
Normally, 120 or so prospective jurors would crowd the main courtroom for a day-long jury selection process; by the end of that day, juries would be impaneled for a month’s worth of trials.
With statewide restrictions in place prohibiting large gatherings, the judge and court staff revamped the selection process.
Two trials are being picked each day this week, one in morning and one in the afternoon. Each trial is picking from a pool of 50 jurors who met with the judge and attorneys in groups of 25 at a time.
Between the a.m. and p.m. sessions, custodial staff disinfect the courtroom seating area.
“This a big week and we’re having to go through the same thing 16 different times but the process, overall, is going to be a success,” Zanic said.
Those jurors who are picked to serve will be notified within 48 hours after the conclusion of the selection process. Normally, they would know before they left the courthouse whether they’re returning for a trial or not.
Zanic noted that, for those who do return next month for one of the eight trials, they won’t be using the customary Victorian era chairs in the jury box. Instead, they will be seated much like they are this week, spread out among the 16 pews.
Zanic thanked prospective jurors for attending to their civic duty in the time of a global pandemic.
“We appreciate you being here in these difficult times,” he told Tuesday’s a.m. group. “This is a constitutional duty, our Sixth Amendment guarantees us a jury of our peers.”
Monday, following a final meeting with staff and county officials to prepare for jury selection, Zanic said the revised process was a matter of striking a balance between a defendant’s constitutional right and the health and safety of all parties involved.
The first case to go through the process Tuesday was that of Joseph Moyer Jr., 34, of Mill Hall,charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and three different misdemeanor DUI offenses relative to an alleged incident Sept. 25, 2019.
During the afternoon session, jury selection was scheduled for Shawn Everetts, 45, of Petersburg, charged with 10 counts of felony 2 forgery, 10 counts of misdemeanor 2 tampering with public records, plus impersonating a notary public and other offenses all connected to an alleged incident involving the sale of vehicles in 2018. Everetts is scheduled for trial Tuesday, Oct. 6.
The following individuals are also scheduled for jury selection this week:
— Kirk Danfelt, 52, of Three Springs, charged with theft and criminal mischief. Jury selection was scheduled for this morning and the trial is set for Wednesday, Oct. 7.
— Kristopher Gardner, 54, of Alexandria, is charged with felony 3 deceptive business practices for allegedly not finishing contracting work on homes in Smithfield Township and Oneida Township. State police report Gardner was operating as Kris’s Remodeling & Restoration and that the alleged incidents occurred in 2017. Jury selection is scheduled for this afternoon and the trial is set for Monday, Oct. 19.
— Marcus Womack, 30, of Philadelphia, facing 28 felony charges including conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver, corrupt organizations (employee), receiving stolen property and firearms violations, all allegedly connected to a Philadelphia-based drug ring that was operating locally in 2016 and 2017. The state Attorney General’s office is prosecuting. Jury selection is scheduled for Thursday morning and a tree-day trial is scheduled for Oct. 8, 9 and 12.
— Dawn Elensky, 41, of Mill Creek, charged with two counts of felony 2 aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and other offenses relative to a motor vehicle crash which occurred March 6, 2019, on Route 453 in Warriors Mark Township, in which a woman and a 3-year-old child received serious injuries. Jury selection is scheduled for Thursday afternoon and trial is set for Wednesday, Oct. 21.
— Tyler Stine, 20, of Altoona, charged with theft and unauthorized used of a motor vehicle, relative to an alleged incident in Huntingdon April 3, 2019. Jury selection is scheduled for Friday morning and the trial is set for Thursday, Oct. 22.
— Joshua Trosky, 39, of Mapleton, facing four felony 2 charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, and other offenses, in connection to a three-vehicle crash Orbisonia Oct. 18, 2019, in which four individuals received serious injuries. Jury selection is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon and the trial is set for Friday, Oct. 23.
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