A petit jury term runs a length of four months beginning in January, May, and September of each jury year. If you are selected to serve as a petit juror for Common Pleas Court, you will be summoned to appear approximately seven to ten days prior to the scheduled jury trial. Your summons will include specific instructions on date and time of appearance, expected duration of trial, instructions on requests to be excused, and telephone contact information to confirm if the trial will proceed. As a petit juror, you may be summoned to appear two to three times during your four month term.
Criminal or Civil Case
A petit juror selected to sit on a trial jury will hear a case of a criminal or civil nature. You will not know the type of trial or the specifics of that trial until you appear as a juror and start the trial process. The law for a criminal trial requires a trial jury of twelve jurors, with eight jurors being required for a trial jury on a civil trial. Most jury trials will seat one or two alternate jurors, in the event of unforeseen circumstances in which a seated juror is unable to attend the entire trial.
A criminal case is filed in the name of the State of Ohio against an individual who has been charged with a crime, called the defendant. A crime is a violation of a law enacted by our legislature to protect our basic rights and freedoms. When seated as a juror on a criminal case, you will hear evidence from both parties; the prosecution (State of Ohio) and the defendant. A criminal trial requires all twelve jurors to unanimously find the defendant guilty or not guilty.
A civil case is usually between two or more persons, companies, or corporations who have a dispute concerning money or property. The party filing the suit is called the plaintiff. The party against whom the suit is being filed is called the defendant. When seated as a juror on a civil case, you will hear evidence from both parties. A civil trial requires at least three-fourths of the trial jurors to agree on the verdict.
Evidence is the testimony of the witnesses, the exhibits admitted during trial, facts agreed to by counsel, and facts the court requires you to accept as true. Evidence does not include the pleadings, statements of counsel, or testimony which has been stricken. You may not speculate as to why the court sustained an objection to any question or what the answer to such a question might have been. Nor may you speculate on the truth of any suggestion included in an unanswered question. A judge is not taking sides when ruling an objection to certain evidence, but merely applying the rules for the proper conduct of the trial.
There may be times when the jury is excused from the courtroom or when counsel and the judge will retire to chambers. Under the law, various matters must be heard out of the presence of the jury. When a trial is necessarily interrupted for such reasons, you should not feel as though your time is being wasted. In many instances time is saved by such conferences.
Credibility of the Witnesses
One of your duties as the “judge of the facts” is to determine the credibility of the witnesses. You may consider the appearance of the witnesses upon the stand; the manner of testifying; the reasonableness of the testimony; the opportunity each witness had to see, hear and know the issues concerning the testimony; accuracy of memory; frankness or lack thereof; intelligence, interest and bias, if any; together with all the circumstances surrounding the testimony. You are not required to believe the testimony of any witness simply because he or she was under oath. It is your right to determine what testimony is worthy of belief and what is not, therefore you will apply the tests of truthfulness which you are accustomed to apply in your daily lives.
Fair & Impartial
As a juror, you are expected to bring all the experience, common sense, and common knowledge you possess, but you are not to rely upon any private sources of information. This rule is only fair to the parties. You must remain fair, impartial and attentive throughout the trial. You may not discuss the case during the trial among other jurors or with anyone else. You will receive the opening statements, the evidence, the arguments and the law, in that order.
It would be unfair of you to form or express an opinion before you receive everything necessary. As a juror, if counsel, parties, or witnesses to the case approach you to discuss the case you should report the incident to the court or the bailiff immediately. You may not, individually, investigate or attempt to obtain additional information on the case outside the courtroom. You may not read, view or listen to any report in the newspaper, on the radio, or television on the subject of the trial. You may only consider and decide the case upon the evidence received at the trial.
If you should acquire any information from an outside source regarding the trial, you must disregard that information when coming to your conclusion about the case. When your period of service is completed, you will be released from these instructions. The work of a juror is of the utmost responsibility and in the discharge of this responsibility you must be diligent in effort and conscientious in thought, otherwise a grave injustice may come about.
Apply the Law
Jurors must decide the facts and apply the law impartially, without sympathy or favor to rich and poor, to corporations and to individuals, to men and to women, and to all litigants without regard to race, color or creed.