Information for Prospective Jurors
Area Court jury trials usually last only 1 day. You could be asked to serve as a juror in a maximum of 2 trials within a 30 day period.
If called to serve as a juror, you will receive a questionnaire to complete. The questionnaire must be returned to the court within 5 days of its receipt. Your answers are used to determine whether or not you possess the necessary qualifications to serve as a juror. At the start of the trial and during a process called "voir dire", attorneys for both sides will review your questionnaire and ask you questions in open court.
If you wish to request that you be excused from completing your duty to serve on the jury, indicate that on the questionnaire in the appropriate place. You may call the court between 8AM and 5PM, 5 days before the first trial date, to determine whether or not you have been excused from service.
Many times trials are canceled at the last minute. Please call the court between 3 PM and 5 PM, the day before the scheduled trial, to see if the trial has been canceled. If you appear at the court on the day of trial, and the trial cancels on that day, you will be paid for your mileage and 1/2 day of juror service fees.
If you have specific questions and can't locate the information on our website you may speak to an Area Court Clerk by calling:
For additional information please click to watch this short video
|This information is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting your own attorney.
This information was produced by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), as part of its Law Facts public information series of pamphlets. You can visit the OSBS website at www.ohiobar.org.
|Why is jury service so important?
When you are called to be a juror, you become a very important person in our legal system. In the United States, our justice system is based on the belief that a just and fair result in court comes from having disputes settled by our fellow citizens. Very few of us ever have to go to court as plaintiffs or defendants, but when we do, we want good, honest people to listen to the evidence and decide our cases fairly.
Therefore, when we are called to serve on a jury, we have an obligation to our fellow citizens to honor the summons and appear at court. Some cases may be more important than others, but to the parties involved, their case is very important, and they deserve to have it decided by honest and impartial jurors.[top]
How are jurors selected?
What are the requirements for being a juror?
Jurors are compensated for each day that they serve. Compensation varies between counties and is set by the Board of County Commissioners. Some courts also provide free parking for jurors.[top]
What are the different types of juries?
Unlike the petit jury, a "grand jury" hears evidence about crimes, usually felonies, and decides whether or not a person should be "indicted" and tried for committing a crime. Also unlike the petit jury, 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 serve on a petit jury, although in most smaller counties, grand jury duty may only be once a month for a three- or four-month period of time.[top]
How long does a juror have to serve?
Most jury trials do not last more than two or three days and it is not uncommon for a jury trial to be completed within the first or second day. On the other hand, a complex trial that involves many witnesses may last for several weeks. Lengthy trials are somewhat rare and prospective jurors are generally advised of the expected length of the trial before they are actually selected. At the end of each day, the jurors are excused to return to their homes, and they return to court the next day if the trial is not over. In rare cases where the judge believes there is a risk that jurors might be contacted by outsiders about the case, jurors may be "sequestered," or separated from others while the trial is going on, generally in a hotel paid for by the court. This usually only occurs in high-profile cases and in capital murder cases where the death penalty is being considered.[top]
What happens when I appear for jury service?
The purpose of the 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 told a little bit about 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, including health problems, employment situations, and other obligations in your life. You have the right to respond to questions confidentially to the judge and attorneys, if you wish. Obviously, you must be truthful.
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 also can 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 they believe will evaluate the case as fairly as possible for their clients.[top]
Is it possible that I might report for jury service but not sit on a jury?
What rules do jurors have to follow?
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 may be allowed to do so after the case has been decided.[top]
How does a jury decide a case?
Following this instruction, the jury goes to the deliberation room to consider the case and reach a verdict. The jury first elects a foreperson who 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 a fair 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 verdict is read by the clerk and the judge dismisses the jurors.[top]
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, jurors must decide if and/or how to compensate the plaintiff for any damages. In civil cases, six 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 a 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, 12 jurors must determine if an accused person is guilty or not guilty of a charge, and the verdict must be unanimous.[top]
What are the benefits of serving on a jury?
However, most jurors find that the experience is 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 are significant, but most significant are the benefits of jury service to the entire community. The information contained in this pamphlet is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting your own attorney.[top]