Types of Juries and Jury Duty in Ohio

October 29, 2012

Misc. Topics

Jury duty in Ohio Have you ever received a jury summons in the mail and wondered why you had been tapped for jury duty?

In Ohio, persons are selected for jury service by random drawing.  They are chosen from either a list of registered voters supplied by the Ohio Secretary of State or from a list of licensed drivers residing in the county or city the court serves.  Sometimes jurors are chosen by combining the two methods.  A new list of eligible jurors is compiled yearly.

Jurors must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the geographical area served by the court to which they are being summoned, and must not have lost their right to serve by having been convicted of certain types of crimes.

The following persons are generally excused from jury duty:  members of cloistered religious orders or recognized members of the Amish sect; people whose mental or physical condition renders them incapable of performing jury service; those whose spouse or a close relative has recently died or is seriously ill; those for whom jury service would cause extreme financial hardship; those older than 75 years; and members of the armed forces on active duty.

The court must approve all excuses and no one is automatically excused.  A person who has been excused is eligible for jury selection in the future.

Potential jurors are asked to complete questionnaires to determine if they are qualified to serve.  The court randomly selects persons as potential jurors after reviewing the questionnaires in an attempt to get a cross section of the community without regard to race, gender, national origin, age or political affiliation.

The judge and attorneys will ask potential jurors more questions to determine their suitability to serve.  This process excludes those who may not be able to decide the  case fairly, those who have information about the case, and those who may know a person or persons involved in the civil dispute or a crime. This process is known as “voir dire.”

Each side may ask that a limited number of jurors be excused and do not have to give a reason (peremptory challenge) for that request.  Challenges for cause can be unlimited, but they must be for a good reason.

There are federal juries and state juries, civil trials and criminal trials.  What is the difference?

There are two types of federal juriestrial juries (also referred to as “petit” juries) and grand juries.  The Jury Selection and Service Act establishes the process for selecting federal jurors and outlines juror qualifications.

A civil federal “petit” jury is comprised of 6 to 12 individuals.  Their role is to listen to the evidence presented at trial and to decide whether the defendant injured the plaintiff or did not fulfill a legal duty to him, and, if so, whether compensation is owed.  These cases are usually between two or more persons or companies that have a dispute concerning money, property, or the meaning or force of a document or rule.

A federal criminal petit jury is made up of 12 members and decides whether the defendant committed the crime as charged.

Verdicts in both federal civil and criminal trials must be unanimous, but the parties in a civil case may agree to allow a non-unanimous verdict.

A federal grand jury is normally composed of 16 to 23 members who decide if there is “probable cause” to believe that the evidence shows an individual may have committed a crime.  If there is enough evidence, the grand jury issues an indictment.  The proceedings of the grand jury are not open to the public and the grand jurors do not decide innocence or guilt.

State jury trials are held in the United States district courts, the common pleas courts of each county, the municipal courts and the county courts.

In a civil case, only eight jurors are required In criminal cases, when persons who have committed a misdemeanor are brought to trial, only eight persons are needed.  In a more serious criminal case, 12 jurors must unanimously decide the verdict.  In civil cases, six jurors (three fourths of eight) must agree.

Ohio is one of 29 states which allows a supermajority verdict in state civil cases seating 12 jurors.  An 11-1 or 10-2 vote of the jury members will be a guilty verdict for the defendant.  

Remember the jury decides the facts from the evidence heard in the courtroom.  The jurors do their best to determine the credibility of each witness.  They must not discuss the case with other jurors until after closing arguments are given and jury instructions have been provided by the judge.  He or she is the person who determines all matters of law.

Jurors must not independently investigate matters involved in a case and they may not use electronic technology to communicate with anyone about a case, including other jurors or parties to the case.

If you have a legal problem or have been injured in an accident anywhere in Ohio, please contact the Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP for a free case evaluation and a free consultation by calling 1-888-534-4850. You can also send a message from the website at slaterzurz.com.

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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