PART C(1). Impaneling Jury
Rule 631. Examination and Challenges of Trial Jurors.
(A) Voir dire of prospective trial jurors and prospective alternate jurors shall be conducted, and the jurors shall be selected, in the presence of a judge, unless the judges presence is waived by the attorney for the Commonwealth, the defense attorney, and the defendant, with the judges consent.
(B) This oath shall be administered individually or collectively to the prospective jurors:
You do solemnly swear by Almighty God (or do declare and affirm) that you will answer truthfully all questions that may be put to you concerning your qualifications for service as a juror.
(C) Upon completion of the oath, the judge shall instruct the prospective jurors upon their duties and restrictions while serving as jurors, and of any sanctions for violation of those duties and restrictions, including those provided in Rule 626(C) and Rule 627.
(D) Voir dire, including the judges ruling on all proposed questions, shall be recorded in full unless the recording is waived. The record will be transcribed only upon written request of either party or order of the judge.
(E) Prior to voir dire, each prospective juror shall complete the standard, confidential juror information questionnaire as provided in Rule 632. The judge may require the parties to submit in writing a list of proposed questions to be asked of the jurors regarding their qualifications. The judge may permit the defense and the prosecution to conduct the examination of prospective jurors or the judge may conduct the examination. In the latter event, the judge shall permit the defense and the prosecution to supplement the examination by such further inquiry as the judge deems proper.
(F) In capital cases, the individual voir dire method must be used, unless the defendant waives that alternative. In non-capital cases, the trial judge shall select one of the following alternative methods of voir dire, which shall apply to the selection of both jurors and alternates:
(1) INDIVIDUAL VOIR DIRE AND CHALLENGE SYSTEM.
(a) Voir dire of prospective jurors shall be conducted individually and may be conducted beyond the hearing and presence of other jurors.
(b) Challenges, both peremptory and for cause, shall be exercised alternately, beginning with the attorney for the Commonwealth, until all jurors are chosen. Challenges shall be exercised immediately after the prospective juror is examined. Once accepted by all parties, a prospective juror shall not be removed by peremptory challenge. Without declaring a mistrial, a judge may allow a challenge for cause at any time before the jury begins to deliberate, provided sufficient alternates have been selected, or the defendant consents to be tried by a jury of fewer than 12, pursuant to Rule 641.
(2) LIST SYSTEM OF CHALLENGES.
(a) A list of prospective jurors shall be prepared. The list shall contain a sufficient number of prospective jurors to total at least 12, plus the number of alternates to be selected, plus the total number of peremptory challenges (including alternates).
(b) Prospective jurors may be examined collectively or individually regarding their qualifications. If the jurors are examined individually, the examination may be conducted beyond the hearing and presence of other jurors.
(c) Challenges for cause shall be exercised orally as soon as the cause is determined.
(d) When a challenge for cause has been sustained, which brings the total number on the list below the number of 12 plus alternates, plus peremptory challenges (including alternates), additional prospective jurors shall be added to the list.
(e) Each prospective juror subsequently added to the list may be examined as set forth in paragraph (F)(2)(b).
(f) When the examination has been completed and all challenges for cause have been exercised, peremptory challenges shall then be exercised by passing the list between prosecution and defense, with the prosecution first striking the name of a prospective juror, followed by the defense, and alternating thereafter until all peremptory challenges have been exhausted. If either party fails to exhaust all peremptory challenges, the jurors last listed shall be stricken. The remaining jurors and alternates shall be seated. No one shall disclose which party peremptorily struck any juror.
This rule applies to all cases, regardless of potential sentence. Formerly there were separate rules for capital and non-capital cases.
If Alternative (F)(1) is used, examination continues until all peremptory challenges are exhausted or until 12 jurors and 2 alternates are accepted. Challenges must be exercised immediately after the prospective juror is questioned. In capital cases, only Alternative (F)(1) may be used unless affirmatively waived by all defendants and the Commonwealth, with the approval of the trial judge.
If Alternative (F)(2) is used, sufficient jurors are assembled to total 12, plus the number of alternates, plus at least the permitted number of peremptory challenges (including alternates). It may be advisable to assemble additional jurors to encompass challenges for cause. Prospective jurors may be questioned individually, out of the presence of other prospective jurors, as in Alternative (F)(1); or prospective jurors may be questioned in the presence of each other. Jurors may be challenged only for cause, as the cause arises. If the challenges for cause reduce the number of prospective jurors below 12, plus alternates, plus peremptory challenges (including alternates), new prospective jurors are called and they are similarly examined. When the examination is completed, the list is reduced, leaving only 12 jurors to be selected, plus the number of peremptories to be exercised; and sufficient additional names to total the number of alternates, plus the peremptories to be exercised in selecting alternates. The parties then exercise the peremptory challenges by passing the list back and forth and by striking names from the list alternately, beginning with counsel for the prosecution. Under this system, all peremptory challenges must be utilized. Alternates are selected from the remaining names in the same manner. Jurors are not advised by whom each peremptory challenge was exercised. Also, under Alternative (F)(2), prospective jurors will not know whether they have been chosen until the challenging process is complete and the roll is called.
This rule requires that prospective jurors be sworn before questioning under either Alternative.
The words in parentheses in the oath shall be inserted when any of the prospective jurors chooses to affirm rather than swear to the oath.
Unless the judges presence during voir dire and the jury selection process is waived pursuant to paragraph (A), the judge must be present in the jury selection room during voir dire and the jury selection process.
Pursuant to paragraph (E), which was amended in 1998, and Rule 632, prospective jurors are required to complete the standard, confidential juror information questionnaire prior to voir dire. This questionnaire, which facilitates and expedites voir dire, provides the judge and attorneys with basic background information about the jurors, and is intended to be used as an aid in the oral examination of the jurors.
The point in time prior to voir dire that the questionnaires are to be completed is left to the discretion of the local officials. Nothing in this rule is intended to require that the information questionnaires be mailed to jurors before they appear in court pursuant to a jury summons.
See Rule 103 for definitions of capital case and voir dire.
Adopted January 24, 1968, effective August 1, 1968; amended May 1, 1970, effective May 4, 1970; amended June 30, 1975, effective September 28, 1975. The 1975 amendment combined former Rules 1106 and 1107. Comment revised January 28, 1983, effective July 1, 1983; amended September 15, 1993, effective January 1, 1994. The September 15, 1993 amendments suspended December 17, 1993 until further Order of the Court; amended February 27, 1995, effective July 1, 1995; the September 15, 1993 Order amending Rule 1106 is superseded by the September 18, 1998 Order, and Rule 1106 is amended September 18, 1998, effective July 1, 1999; renumbered Rule 631 and amended March 1, 2000, effective April 1, 2001; amended July 7, 2015, effective October 1, 2015.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Report explaining the September 15, 1993 amendments published at 21 Pa.B. 150 (January 12, 1991). Order suspending, until further Order of the Court, the September 15, 1993 amendments concerning juror information questionnaires published at 24 Pa.B. 333 (January 15, 1994).
Final Report explaining the February 27, 1995 amendments published with the Courts Order at 25 Pa.B. 948 (March 18, 1995).
Final Report explaining the September 18, 1998 amendments concerning juror information questionnaires published with the Courts Order at 28 Pa.B. 4887 (October 3, 1998).
Final Report explaining the March 1, 2000 reorganization and renumbering of the rules published with the Courts Order at 30 Pa.B. 1478 (March 18, 2000).
Final Report explaining the July 7, 2015 amendment regarding instructions to the prospective jurors published with the Courts Order at 45 Pa.B. 3985 (Juy 25, 2015).
The provisions of this Rule 631 amended July 7, 2015, effective October 1, 2015, 45 Pa.B. 3980. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (265687) to (265689) and (264319).
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