Reporting for Petit Jury Duty
After checking in with the Clerk of Courts Office, you will be escorted to the jury room where you will wait until all jurors are present. After all jurors are present, the Clerk will take a role-call. The judge will have you swear or affirm to your oath and the selection process will begin.
The selection process will contain questions presented to you by the judge and counsel. Each party to a lawsuit is entitled to jurors who approach the case with open minds and who agree to keep their minds open until a verdict is reached. Jurors must be as free as humanly possible from bias, prejudice or sympathy and not influenced by preconceived ideas either as to facts or the law.
The questions that will be asked are not designed to pry into your personal affairs, but to discover if you have any knowledge of this case; any preconceived opinions which cannot be laid aside; or if you’ve had any experiences that might cause you to identify yourself with either party. These questions are necessary to assure each party an impartial jury. There are two types of challenges for which a juror may be excused from sitting on a case.
The challenges for cause are covered by statute. The judge decides whether or not a prospective juror should be excused for cause. Peremptory challenges are also provided for in the law and are limited in number. The court must excuse a person who is challenged peremptorily. If you are challenged for any reason or in any way, it does not mean you may not serve on other juries and it is in no way a reflection on your honesty or ability.
After the jury has been selected those jurors remaining will be asked to stand and swear or affirm to well and truly try the matters in issue and render a true verdict according to the evidence and the law. The trial will begin with opening statements. These opening statements are not evidence, but they are a preview of the claims or position of each party designed to help you follow the evidence as it is presented.
Then, each side may offer evidence to support its claim or position. In a civil case, the plaintiff proceeds first, followed by the defendant. Thereafter, rebuttal evidence may be offered. In a criminal case, the prosecution (State of Ohio) offers its evidence. The defendant may offer evidence if so desired. If the defendant presents evidence, the prosecution may present rebuttal evidence. When all evidence has been presented, the attorneys for the respective parties will be given an opportunity to address the jury.
Arguments will begin. The lawyer for the plaintiff or the prosecution is usually heard first and will analyze the evidence and attempt to convince the jury that under the evidence and the law, they are entitled to have the case decided in their favor. The lawyer for the defendant will then make an argument to show why the case should be decided in their favor. The plaintiff’s attorney or the prosecuting attorney is then allowed to rebut the defendant’s argument. These arguments are not evidence in the case.
The judge will then instruct you as to the law. You must apply the law as given by the court to the facts in the case as you find them. You should listen to these instructions carefully, bearing in mind that it is your sworn duty to follow the law. You will then retire to the jury room for deliberations.
Your first duty upon retiring is to select your foreperson. The foreperson acts as chairperson. It is the foreperson’s duty to see that the discussion is carried on in sensible and orderly fashion and that every juror has a chance to voice an opinion. The foreperson has no greater voice than other members of the panel with respect to the verdict.
Discussion & Verdict
Discussion in the jury room should never be so loud that it can be heard outside. Jurors should deliberate with open minds, give respectful consideration to the opinions of fellow jurors, freely exchange views or opinions concerning the suit and not be hesitant to change their minds when reason and logic so dictate. It is your solemn oath to decide the case according to the law and the evidence.
Questions during deliberation must be written and presented to the bailiff. The judge then reads the question in the presence of the attorneys and their clients. The answer is written and returned to the foreperson by the bailiff. The jury’s deliberation is secret. Until a verdict is announced and accepted by the judge in open court, jurors may not disclose to anyone else the status of their deliberations or the nature of their verdict. When a verdict is reached, the foreperson informs the bailiff of that fact. The jury then returns to the court and gives its verdict.
Upon conclusion of the reading of the verdict, you will receive final words from the court and be excused of your duties.