If a Case Goes to Trial . . .
If you are called to testify on the day of the trial, you should immediately proceed to the courthouse in Honesdale. Parking at metered on-street locations is available. Potential jurors should put their juror summons on the dashboard for meter attendants to view. Jurors selected for a panel will be given a parking pass.
You will need to go through a metal detector at the security checkpoint when you enter the Wayne County Courthouse. All purses, briefcases, packages, etc. will be scanned. You may not bring any weapons, pocket knives, box cutters or mace into the courthouse.
Once you have passed through security, proceed to the District Attorney’s Office located on the 1st floor to check in. You will be asked to sign a witness slip. This slip must be completed in order for you to receive a nominal witness fee of $5.00 per day and $.07 per mile for your travel. After you have signed in, you will be directed to a specific courtroom where the Assistant District Attorney (prosecutor) assigned to handle the case will speak with you about your testimony.
The day of trial
A number of events may occur on the scheduled trial date of a case. Most often it is not known until the morning of the trial date as to which of the following events will occur:
- The defendant may not appear. If this happens, the Judge will issue a bench warrant for his/her arrest. The case will then be rescheduled for trial on a later date after the defendant has been apprehended.
- The trial date may be continued or postponed if either the defendant or the prosecution is not ready for trial. If the case is continued, a new trial date is usually set immediately by the court and you will receive a new trial notification.
- The defendant may plead guilty. The defendant might enter a plea agreement that has been negotiated (worked out in advance) between the defendant, the defense attorney and the prosecutor. This agreement might include a plea to a lesser charge, a dismissal of one or more charges or a recommendation for a reduced sentence. If the Judge accepts the negotiated plea, the sentence remains as agreed upon. The defendant might also enter an open guilty plea, which means that the defendant will plead guilty to some or all of the charges but the sentence will be decidedly solely by the Judge.
- If the defendant decides to plead guilty on his trial date, on-call victims and witnesses will receive a call to not come to the courthouse. In that guilty pleas often take place on the trial date, all victims who wish to have input at sentencing should plan to be present at the courthouse at a later date for sentencing.
- If the defendant does not plead guilty, the case will proceed for trial. There will either be a jury trial or a bench (waiver) trial. A Waiver trial means that there is no jury and a Judge will decide the verdict. In a jury trial, jury selection is generally done immediately before the trial begins. If a case is called for trial, you will be telephoned to come to the courthouse. Trials in criminal cases are held in one of several courtrooms located in the Wayne County Courthouse. Criminal trials are public hearings and each courtroom provides for a limited number of spectators.
Testifying at trial
The purpose of a trial is to determine the truth. By keeping this purpose in mind, you will help to insure that justice is done in all cases.
A trial begins with an opening statement by the District Attorney representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The statement outlines the case that the Commonwealth’s evidence will prove. The defense attorney follows or has the option of delaying an opening statement until the beginning of the defense’s case.
The Commonwealth presents their case first. Your testimony will be needed at this time. You will encounter two (2) forms of questioning, direct examination and cross-examination. The District Attorney who calls you to testify will question you about the particular facts which you have observed about the crime at issue. This is called direct examination. After the District Attorney’s questions are completed, the defendant’s attorney will have the right to ask you questions about the same facts. This is called cross-examination.
After the Commonwealth has presented all of their witnesses, the defense begins. The defendant does not have to take the stand in his/her own defense. When both sides are finished questioning witnesses, they proceed to closing arguments. It is important to remember that the defendant does not have to prove that he/she is not guilty. The burden of proof lies with the Commonwealth to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
After closing arguments, the Judge will give jury instructions. This is called “charging the jury”. After the jury has been charged, they will talk together until they reach a unanimous verdict. The verdict is read in open court. If the verdict is not guilty, the case will be dismissed. If the verdict is guilty, the defendant may be sentenced immediately or the Judge may order a pre-sentence investigation and the sentencing will take place at a later date. A sentencing hearing will usually be scheduled within 90 days.
In most cases which result in a guilty verdict, the Judge has the option of imposing several types of sentences. Those options include:
- A sentence of imprisonment. Prison sentences may be served in the Wayne County Correctional Facility or one of several state prisons throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- A term of supervised probation. Under a probation sentence, the defendant will not serve time in prison but will have his/her activities supervised by the Adult Probation and Parole Department.
- Non-reporting probation.
- A fine.
Sentences may always contain special provisions such as restitution for losses suffered by a victim or a requirement that the defendant have no contact with a victim or witness. The sentence may also include an order the defendant must undergo drug/alcohol treatment, psychological counseling and/or anger management counseling. In some cases, the Judge may also order the defendant to write a letter of apology to the victim.