Frequently Asked Questions

How are jurors selected?

In Hancock County persons are selected at random for jury service from the list of registered voters with the Board of Elections and Secretary of State.

If you have received a summons for a deceased relative, please note their date of death, sign the summons and return it to the court. Our staff will attempt to not send further summons, but if the name of a deceased person remains on the source list, you may receive additional summons. However, the only way to ensure that this does not continue is to contact the Board of Elections and have the name removed from their list.

What are the requirements for being a juror?

To serve on a jury, you must be a resident of Hancock County and must be at least 18 years of age. Additionally, you must not have lost their right to serve on a jury by having been convicted of certain types of crimes. Beyond that, everyone is eligible to be a juror.

What are the different types of juries?

Petit Jury:
If you are selected to serve on a “Petit Jury,” you will hear a case which is criminal or civil. 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” by 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 at least one ” alternate juror(s)” in the event that sickness or unforeseen circumstances arise in which one of the regular jurors are unable to complete their jury service. The “alternative juror” hears the trial in its entirety but does not participate in jury deliberations unless directed by the Court.

Grand Jury:
A “Grand Jury” hears evidence about crimes and decides whether or not a person should be indicted and tried for committing a crime. The grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence. If you are summoned for service on a grand jury your term of service will be for 4 months, although you may only be required to appear a few times.

How long does a juror have to serve?

In Hancock County, your service consists of only one week or one entire trial. The average jury trial is approximately two (2) to three (3) consecutive days. However, a more complex trial that involves many witnesses may last longer. Prospective jurors are advised of the expected length of the trial before they are actually selected.

A typical jury day is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  At the end of each day jurors are dismissed to return to their homes and then return to the court the next day until the trial is over. Sometimes this schedule is modified by the Court.  Jurors will be notified of the schedule by the Court.

What happens when I appear for jury service?

When you arrive at the Courthouse, you will be directed to a particular courtroom or to a juror assembly area. The Hancock County Common Pleas Court provides a brief orientation video to help acquaint you with the system.

All prospective jurors take an oath or affirm that they will answer truthfully questions posed to them by the judge and the attorneys during the selection process.  The purpose of this questioning is to find out if there is some reason why it might be difficult for you to be fair and impartial in this particular case. As a prospective juror, you are introduced to the parties and the attorneys in the case and often 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 might be excused from jury service.

You are also made aware of the type of case to be presented and some of the facts of the case so that the court can determine if you have any past experiences that might make it hard for you to be fair and impartial to all of the parties. You will also have an opportunity to tell the court about other matters that might impact 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.  This is called a “peremptory challenge”. Each side can also make an unlimited number of challenges “for cause”. When attorneys make these “challenges,” it is not their intent to personally attack potential jurors, but only to ensure that they select jurors who can evaluate the case as fairly and impartially.

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 and avoid the time and expense of a trial. Sometimes a case is settled only minutes before the trial begins. Therefore, even though a trial may be scheduled, some cases will not actually go to trial, so those cases will not need juries. Your time spent waiting to serve is not wasted; your presence encourages settlement.

What rules do jurors have to follow?

After the jury has been selected, the jurors must stand and take an oath or affirm 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 the jurors about the law that applies to the case. Jurors may not do any independent investigation of the matters involved in the case, 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.

How does a jury decide a case?

After the attorneys have presented their evidence and made their closing statements, the judge instructs the jurors about the laws that apply to the case. Jurors must 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 reads the verdict and the judge dismisses the jurors.

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 parties that have a dispute concerning money or property. The party that files the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff.” The party being sued is called the “defendant.” In civil cases, at least six (6) jurors of the eight (8) jurors must agree on a verdict.

In a criminal case, the “defendant” is the person charged with a crime. A crime is a violation of the law enacted by the legislature. Because crimes are considered acts against the state, and because the state is responsible for enforcing the laws of the State, the State of Ohio prosecutes these cases as the “plaintiff.” In a criminal case, twelve (12) jurors determine if an accused person is guilty or not guilty of a charge and the verdict must be unanimous.

What are the benefits of serving on a jury?

It is understandable that someone may be apprehensive about being called for jury duty. They may fear that their time will be wasted or that the experience will be negative.  However, most jurors find that the experience is a positive one. 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 new friends during the course of their service.

Court officials always work 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 there are also significant benefits from jury service to the entire community.

Can I serve on a Jury if I have a felony conviction?

Yes, you can serve on a jury with a felony conviction, if you have had your rights fully restored.

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