From the Judges
Your service as a juror is vitally
important and the judiciary would not exist as we know it
if not for your service. Upon
completion of your jury service we welcome and would appreciate any feedback or
suggestions on how the Court can improve the experience. Your service and dedication to our
community is sincerely appreciated.
~Judges of the Canton Municipal Court
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 before the birth of Christ. 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 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 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' 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
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 in 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
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
Presumption of Innocence: The fact that a person 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
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.
Trial Procedure Outline
Jury Seating: 8 Civil; 8 Criminal
Challenge for Cause - Peremptory Challenge
Overview of what the evidence will be;
they are not evidence
Presentation of Evidence
Party who has burden of proof normally goes first
Burden of Proof
Civil Cases: Usually prove case by a preponderance of the
Criminal: State must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
Summary of the evidence; they are not evidence
Jury Charge by Judge
Instructions of law
Select foreperson: Only jurors may be present
Verdict read in open court
At least 6 of 8 Jurors sign verdict (Civil) All 8 Jurors sign verdict
Useful Court Terms
Direct Examination: Questions a lawyer
asks of a witness normally called by the lawyer to testify on behalf of the
Cross Examination: After a witness
testifies on direct examination, the other side has a right of cross examination. This is permitted to "test" the
witness's direct testimony.
Objection: Every trial has
objections made by the lawyers as to certain questions and evidence. Objections
are based on claims that the evidence is not admissible for some legal reason. The judge rules upon all objections.
Objection Sustained: This means the objection is correct and the question or evidence is not
proper. You should not guess on what the answer or evidence may have been if
the question had been answered.
Motion to Strike: Sometimes evidence
comes in which is not legally proper. When a judge grants a motion to strike,
you must disregard the evidence involved.
Objection Overruled: This means the objection to the question or answer is not proper.
The evidence, therefore, is admitted for your
Side Bar Conference: During almost every trial, issues arise concerning legal matters
and other procedural matters. To keep the jury impartial, these are often
handled at the judge's bench in what is called a side-bar
Depositions: These statements
obtained under oath of a witness in a case prior to the trial. The testimony is
then typed and it can often be used at trial for various purposes. Some
depositions are taken of a witness in advance of the trial and are used in lieu
of that witness' appearance during a trial. This testimony is then read or
sometimes played on videotape. The testimony is to be considered exactly as if
the witness had appeared live in the courtroom.
Exhibits: These are the
tangible items of evidence. If admitted by the judge, you will take these to
the jury room. These include photographs, medical records, weapons, and other
tangible items of evidence.
Deliberation: At the conclusion of
the case, after the judge provides you with your instructions, you will then
deliberate. Only the jurors are present during the deliberations. Deliberations
involve reviewing the evidence and applying the instructions of law to arrive
at a verdict.
Preponderance of the Evidence: Preponderance of the evidence is the greater weight of the
evidence; that is, evidence that you believe because it outweighs or
overbalances in your mind the evidence opposed to it. A preponderance means
evidence that is more probable, more persuasive, or of greater probative value.
It is the quality of the evidence that must be
weighed. Quality may, or may not, be identical with quantity.
In determining whether an issue has been proved by a
preponderance of the evidence, you should consider all of the evidence,
regardless of who produced it.
If the weight of the evidence is equally balanced, or if
you are unable to determine which side of an issue has the preponderance, the
party who has the burden of proof has not established such issue by a
preponderance of the evidence.
Reasonable Doubt: (For Criminal Cases Only) Reasonable doubt is
present when, after you have carefully considered and compared all the
evidence, you cannot say you are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge.
Reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason and common sense. Reasonable doubt
is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs or
depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. Proof
beyond a reasonable doubt is proof of such character that an ordinary person
would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of his or her