Sunday, February 12, 2017

The "Wheel" and "Cheesebox" Delaware County jury selection 100 years ago


A hundred years ago you probably would have gone by train to Media to serve on the jury.



Historic Wheel from Which the Names are Selected Was First Used in This City When Chester Was the County Seat in the Early Days

            There are few people in this county who know how citizens are selected as jurors.  Since the county has been a county it has been a lottery as to who would become a member of the Grand Jury or a member of the Petit Jury.
            The wheel presented in this picture looks like a crude instrument, but yet for nearly a century hands have been going in and coming out of this wheel making the selection of the jurors by lottery.
            But few persons have had the opportunity of watching the operation of drawing the jury in the past century.  The jury wheel now in use was first used in the city of Chester, which was then the county seat.  When the courthouse was removed in Media, the old wheel or a “Cheese box,” as many call it, was some of the relics taken from Chester to Media.  It has done duty ever since.
            For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the manner in which jurors are selected this article is written.
            In the first instance, the judge of judges upon the bench designate the number of names that are to be placed therein.
            The Sheriff then, under the authority of law, is directed to draw from the historic wheel the number of names designated by the Court within 35 days of the session of the Court.
            On the day set by the Sheriff and the two jury commissioners meet to fulfill this order of the Court.  The old wheel is then taken from the safe, the names of the Sheriff, the Jury-Commissioners and Judge, which were written at the previous drawing, are taken from the wheel by one of the above named in authority.
            Books, which are used in the Sheriff’s office, are placed under the wheel so as to hold it in position.  The Sheriff takes the first draw and is then followed by the Jury Commissioners in order of their party.  These men alternate in drawing from the wheel until the close of the drawing.
            At the close, the names of the Judge and the Jury Commissioners and the Sheriff are written upon a slip of paper, secured by sealing wax and then the wheel is replaced in the safe in the Sheriff’s office.
            Many persons have the idea that they can be drawn as jurors on the Grand Jury or on the Petit Jury just as the officers in charge of the work desire, but this is not the case.  They are drawn in accordance with the law.  The first 34 names drawn from the wheel are known as members of the Grand Jury.  Then the names of the citizens which come out of the wheel are placed in order in accordance with the direction of the Court, whether it be 55, 63, or 75 for each week.
            The drawing of the Jury is a feature of the political conditions that few have any knowledge of, but which is one of the most important characteristics of our civil government.
            A few years ago it was claimed in this county, as well as other counties of the State, that the men who had the authority of drawing the names from the jury wheel took them from their pockets instead of drawing them from the wheel.  This, however, is impossible now under the present regime of drawing jurors for the reason that the law prescribes that the name of every person drawn as a juror shall be placed on file in the office of the Prothonotary.
            Persons often complain because their names do not come out of the wheel and criticize the Judge, the Sheriff and the Judy Commissioners for not putting them in.  The wheel being a lottery it is impossible for any officer connected with the drawing of the jury to tell in advance whose name will be brought out.
            The names are placed in the wheel upon small pieces of paper tightly rolled and concealed by rubber bands, being the selection of the Judge, the Sheriff, and the two Jury Commissioners, making it utterly impossible for anyone to know whose name will be first or last to come from the historic wheel.

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