Seneca County

Common Pleas Court

 
 

Jury Service - Frequently Asked Questions

Judge Steve C. Shuff

Magistrate Kenneth C. Clason

117 E. Market Street, Suite 4204

Tiffin, OH 44883

Telephone: (419) 448-1302

Fax: (419) 443-7927

Judge Michael P. Kelbley

Magistrate Erica J. Gordon

117 E. Market Street, Suite 4303

Tiffin, OH 44883

Telephone: (419) 447-2982

Fax: (419) 448-7103

What are the requirements for being a juror?


To serve on a jury in a particular court, you must (1) be a resident of Seneca County, (2) be at least 18 years of age and (3) have been restored to your civil rights if convicted of a serious offense.  Beyond that, everyone is given the opportunity regardless of occupation.



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What are the different types of juries?


Petit Jury: 

If you are selected to serve on a “petit jury”, you will hear a case that is either 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” with 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 in the event that sickness or unforeseen circumstances arise in which one of the regular jurors are unable to attend a portion of the trial.  The “alternate juror” hears the trial in its entirety but does not participate in jury deliberations.


Grand Jury:

A “grand jury” hears evidence about crimes and decides whether a person should be indicted and tried for committing a crime.  The 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 a longer period of time than if you served on a petit jury.



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How long does a juror have to serve?


For petit jurors, your service is a term of 4 months and will be called on an as needed basis.  You will receive a post card with a date and time to appear approximately one week prior to the date of service.


For grand jurors, your service is a term of 4 months and you will meet weekly.  The Seneca County Prosecutor will notify you of the dates and times to appear.  Some days may be only a half day and others may go all day.



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What happens when I appear for jury service?


When you arrive at the court, you will check in at the Clerk of Court’s office located on the first floor, and then you will proceed to the appropriate Judge’s office from there. All prospective jurors will take an oath or affirm that they will answer truthfully questions posed to them by the Court and the attorneys during the selection process.  The purpose of this questioning is to find out if there is some reason why it would be difficult for a prospective juror to be fair and impartial in the case to be a prospective juror, you are introduced to the parties and the attorneys and given a list of probable witnesses.  If you have some relationship to a person, it might be difficult for you to consider the case impartially, and likely be excused from jury service.


You are also made aware of some of the facts of the case so that they determine if any past experience or prejudice might make it hard for you.  You also have an opportunity to tell the court about anything else that might influence 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” reason). When attorneys make these “challenges,” it is not their intent to attack potential jurors, but to ensure that they engage jurors who can hear a case as fairly as possible for their clients.



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Is it possible that I might report for service but not sit on a jury?


Yes. The parties involved in a case usually try to settle their differences to save the time and expense of a trial.  Sometimes a case is settled only minutes before trial begins.  Therefore, even though a trial may be scheduled, some actually go to trial, so those cases will not need juries.  Your time spent waiting to serve is not wasted; your presence encourages settlement.


Also, the day you are summoned to appear for jury duty is for jury selection.  You may be selected to serve as a juror, or you may be excused for some reason.



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What rules do jurors have to follow?


After the jury has been selected, the jurors must stand and take an oath 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 you about the law that applies to the case.  Jurors may not do any 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.



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How does a jury decide a case?


After the attorneys have presented their evidence and made their closing arguments the judge instructs the jurors about the laws that apply to the case.  Jurors 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 delivers the verdict and the judge dismisses the jurors after the verdict has been read.



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How many jurors must agree with a verdict?


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 decide 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 is guilty or not guilty of a charge and the verdict must be unanimous.



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What are the benefits of serving on a jury?


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 could 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 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 are significant, but most significant are the benefits of jury service to the entire community.



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