The Jury System
The right to a jury trial means the right to have a matter decided by your fellow citizens. The jury system dates back to ancient times. Long before the birth of Christ, the Greeks and Romans followed a jury system. When America was settled, the concept of a jury trial was already a major part of our legal system. The Declaration of Independence cites the "denial of a trial by jury" as one of the major reasons for colonial independence. The right to a jury trial is so important that it is guaranteed in the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions. It is one of our most cherished rights.
Juror Duties: In the Courtroom
As a juror, you, along with the other jurors, solely decide the facts in the case you hear. You decide the facts in the case you hear. You decide whom to believe or not believe. You determine the weight to be given to all the evidence. The judge will provide the law to you which you will then apply to the facts you find to be true. You determine the facts from only the evidence presented in court.
Evidence: Evidence comes from only what occurs in the courtroom. Evidence can be from the testimony of witnesses, exhibits admitted for your review, and from facts agreed upon by both sides. The statements of lawyers are not evidence. You may believe all, part or none of a witness's testimony. The quality and not the quantity of the evidence is most important.
Your duty is to listen to all evidence with an open mind. Do not form any opinion about the case until you have heard all the evidence. You must take your duty as a juror very seriously. It is an important responsibility.
Juror Duties: Outside Court
As a juror you must not discuss the case among yourselves or with anyone else. This rule applies while you are at court, during breaks, and even at home. You must not let anyone discuss the case with you. You may not speak to the lawyers, witnesses or parties. Once your jury service is concluded, you may freely discuss the case with anyone you choose.
Selecting a Jury
Jurors are selected for a particular case by a process known as voir dire. This means to "speak the truth". This is done by bringing the jurors to the courtroom where you will be asked some questions. The goal is to select jurors who will be fair, impartial, and open-minded. Jurors may be excused from service two ways:
Challenge for Cause: Jurors may be excused for a particular reason. This could be for illness. It may also occur when a juror might have a difficult time being fair in a particular case. An example would be where a juror is related to one of the parties involved in the case.
Peremptory Challenge: Each side to the case has the right to excuse a certain number of jurors without giving a reason. If you are excused, please do not take it personally.
Types of Cases
Jurors normally hear one of two types of cases: one is a civil lawsuit and the other is a criminal proceeding.
Most often this type of case involves one side filing a lawsuit against the other side of the case. Normally the suit asks for money damages. Civil lawsuits include cases involving auto accidents, medical malpractice, breach of contract, and many other matters.
Plaintiff-Defendant: The side filing the lawsuit is usually called the plaintiff. The side being sued is usually called the defendant. Calling each side by plaintiff or defendant does not mean one side is right and the other side is wrong.
When a party files a civil lawsuit or asserts a claim, that party must prove the issues relating to the claim by the required burden of proof.
Burden of Proof In a civil lawsuit, the person filing the suit must normally prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. The term preponderance of the evidence means the greater weight of the evidence. If insufficient proof is offered then the person may not recover.
A criminal case is.different from a civil lawsuit. In a criminal case, the State of Ohio claims that the person (the defendant) has committed a crime. In common pleas court, a defendant is notified of the charge by receiving a document called an indictment.
Indictment: This is a document which contains the allegations involving the criminal charge. The Ohio legislature determines what acts shall constitute a criminal offense. Crimes are listed in the Ohio Revised Code. Examples would be robbery, theft and burglary.
In most criminal cases the jury is concerned only with whether a crime has been committed. The jury is not involved in sentencing and punishment. The judge determines all sentences based on the legislature's guidelines.
Presumption of Innocence: The fact that a per-son is charged with a crime does not mean he or she is guilty. By law, a defendant is presumed innocent at all times during a trial. A person is to be found guilty only if that person's guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The county prosecutor is a public official who represents the State of Ohio. The prosecuting attorney must prove every element of an alleged crime beyond a "reasonable doubt".
In both a civil lawsuit or criminal proceeding, the end result is for the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict. After the case is completed, the judge will provide detailed instructions and definitions to you concerning the law for the particular case in which you are serving as a juror. your oath as a juror requires you to accept the law as given to you by the judge. You will then deliberate with only your fellow jurors present to reach a verdict.
Civil Lawsuit Verdict: The verdict in a civil case is typically either for the plaintiff or defendant, as is proven by the evidence. The verdict requires a vote of at least three-fourths of the jury (six of eight).
Criminal Proceeding Verdict: The verdict in a criminal case is either guilty or not guilty. The verdict requires a unanimous vote of the jury.