Frequently Asked Questions
In Hancock County persons are selected at random for jury service from the Registrar of Voters. If you have spelled your name differently or if the information at the Registrar of Voters is not up to date, you may receive additional summons. If you have received a summons for a deceased relative, please sign the summons and return it to the court. Our staff will attempt to not send further summons, but if the name of a deceased person remains on the source list, you may receive additional summons. The only way to ensure that this does not continue is to contact the Registrar of Voters and have the name removed from their list.
In some counties and in federal courts, the list of registered automobile drivers may be used. Jury trials are held in the United States district court, the common pleas court of each county, municipal courts and county courts.
To serve on a jury in a particular court, you must be a resident of the geographical area served by that particular court. Ohio jurors must be at least 18 years of age, and they must not have lost their right to serve on a jury by having been convicted of certain types of crimes. Beyond that, everyone is given the opportunity to be a juror regardless of age (if at least 18) and regardless of occupation.
If you are selected to serve on a “Petit Jury,” you will hear a case which is criminal or civil. A criminal trial will involve a felony (a more serious type of crime). The law requires twelve (12) jurors to be seated in a criminal case and only eight (8) jurors are required in a civil case. In a criminal trial, the jury must find a defendant “guilty” or “not guilty” by a unanimous vote. In civil cases, the law requires a vote of at least three-fourths of the jury to reach a verdict. Most jury trials will seat an ” alternate juror(s)” in the event that sickness or unforeseen circumstances arise in which one of the regular jurors are unable to attend some portion of the trial. The “alternative juror” hears the trial in its entirety but does not participate in jury deliberations.
A “Grand Jury” hears evidence about crimes and decides whether or not a person should be indicted and tried for committing a crime. The grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence. If you are summoned to court to be selected for service on a grand jury, you will probably serve for a longer period of time than if you served on a petit jury.
In Hancock County, your service consists of only one week “on-call” or service on one entire trial. The average jury trial is approximately two (2) to three (3) consecutive days. On the other hand, a complex trial that involves many witnesses may last for several weeks. Prospective jurors are advised of the expected length of the trial before they are actually selected.
At the end of a typical jury day (9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) jurors are dismissed to return to their homes, and return to the court the next day if the trial is not over. In extremely rare, high profile instances, where the judge believes there is a risk that jurors could be contacted by outsiders about the case, the judge may order jurors to be “sequestered” or separated from others while the trial is going on. Should a judge so order, the court will arrange and provide security and hotel accommodations.
When you arrive at the court, you are directed to a particular courtroom or to a meeting area. The Hancock County Common Pleas Court provides a brief orientation video to help acquaint you with the system. All prospective jurors take an oath or affirm that they will answer truthfully questions posed to them by the judge and the attorneys during the selection process.
The purpose of this questioning is to find out if there is some reason why it might be difficult for a prospective juror to be fair and impartial in the case to be tried. As a prospective juror, you are introduced to the parties and the attorneys in the case and given a list of probable witnesses. If you have some relationship to one of these persons, it might be difficult for you to consider the case impartially, and you will likely be excused from jury service.
You are also made aware of some of the facts of the case so that the court can determine if any past experience or prejudice might make it hard for you to be fair. You also have an opportunity to tell the court about anything else that might impact your ability to sit as a juror.
Generally, each side in a case has the right to ask that a certain limited number of jurors be excused without giving a reason (called a “peremptory challenge”). Each side can also make an unlimited number of challenges “for cause” (for a good reason). When attorneys make these “challenges,” it is not their intent to personally attack potential jurors, but to ensure that they engage jurors who can evaluate the case as fairly as possible for their clients.
Yes. The parties involved in a case usually try to settle their differences and avoid the time and expense of a trial. Sometimes a case is settled only minutes before the trial begins. Therefore, even though a trial may be scheduled, some cases will not actually go to trial, so those cases will not need juries. Your time spent waiting to serve is not wasted; your presence encourages settlement.
After the jury has been selected, the jurors must stand and take an oath or affirm that they will “well and truly” try the particular case for which they have been chosen, that they will wait until all the evidence has been heard before making up their minds, and that they will follow all of the judge’s instructions.
Jurors must pay attention throughout the trial and do their best to determine the credibility of each witness. Jurors are not permitted to discuss the case among themselves or with anyone else until all the evidence has been presented, the attorneys have made their closing arguments, and the judge has instructed the jurors about the law that applies to the case. Jurors may not do any independent investigation of the matters involved in the lawsuit, and they may not discuss the case with anyone outside the courtroom until after they have deliberated in the jury room and arrived at a verdict. Even then, they don’t have to discuss the case with anyone, although they are permitted to do so after the case has been decided.
After the attorneys have presented their evidence and made their closing statements, the judge instructs the jurors about the laws that apply to the case. Jurors must decide cases based on the laws as they are and not as the jurors might like them to be.
Following this instruction, the jury goes to the deliberation room to consider the case and reach a verdict. The jury first elects a foreperson that sees to it that discussions are conducted in a sensible and orderly fashion, that all issues are fully and fairly discussed, and that every juror is given an equal chance to participate. If the jurors have a question during their deliberation, they may write it down and ask the bailiff to deliver it to the judge.
When a verdict has been reached, the jurors agreeing to the verdict sign a form and notify the bailiff. The bailiff reads the verdict and the judge dismisses the jurors.
The type of case determines the number of jurors who must agree on a verdict.
A civil case is usually between two or more persons, companies or corporations who have a dispute concerning money or property. The party suing for compensation is called the “plaintiff.” The party being sued is called the “defendant.” In a civil case, the jurors must decided if and/or how to compensate the plaintiff for any damages. In civil cases, six (6) jurors (three fourths of the eight jurors) must agree on a verdict.
In a criminal case, the “defendant” is a person charged with a crime. A crime is a violation of the law enacted by the legislature to protect our basic rights. Because crimes are considered acts against the state, and because the state is responsible for legally enforcing the laws of the people, the State of Ohio prosecutes these cases as the “plaintiff.” In a criminal case, twelve (12) jurors determine if an accused person is guilty or not guilty of a charge and the verdict must be unanimous.
It is understandable that persons may be apprehensive about being called for jury duty. They may fear that their time will be wasted or that the experience will be negative.
However, most jurors find that the experience is very positive. They have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the legal system and about the particular subject matter of the lawsuit. They also may make some good friends during the course of their service.
Court officials are careful to treat jurors courteously and professionally. They know how important jurors are to the task of achieving fair and just results for those who come before the court. The benefits to individuals who serve as jurors is significant, but most significant are the benefits of jury service to the entire community.
Yes, you can serve on a jury with a felony conviction, if you have had your rights fully restored.