Grand Jury Service

 

For persons who have been selected to serve on the Seneca County Grand Jury or other persons interested in the function of the grand jury, the following question/answer guide is useful to gain a better understanding of this important charging body in our criminal justice system. On an annual basis, an average of more than 200 felony cases, many with multiple felony charges, are presented to the Seneca County Grand Jury for a determination of whether criminal indictments should be filed in Seneca County Common Pleas Court.

 

 


Questions about Grand Jury Service

Questions About Grand Jury Service

Who may be called to serve as a grand juror?  
You may be called to serve on the grand jury if you are at least 18 years of age or older, a United States citizen, and a “resident elector” under Ohio law, meaning you live in Seneca County and are registered to vote. 

How is my name selected for grand jury duty?
Your name is among the first to be selected at random by computer from the list of registered voters provided to the Jury Commission by the Seneca County Board of Elections.  Because this process is random, some persons are called to serve more than once for grand jury or petit jury service, while others might never be called to serve on a jury.

What is the difference between grand jury and petit jury service?
Persons selected to serve on the grand jury decide whether a particular person should be charged with a felony crime and stand trial upon examining the evidence and information presented by a county prosecutor through witnesses, finding probable cause to indict a person for committing a felony or other infamous crime which occurred in Seneca County.  Petit or trial jurors in a felony case, however, decide whether a person charged with one or more felony crimes is guilty or not guilty of committing a crime based upon evidence which proves the accused person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

How will I know I have been called to serve on the grand jury?
You will receive a summons in the mail signed by the Seneca County Sheriff.  This summons states that you are to appear at a date and time noted on the summons for the selection process, which takes place at Seneca County Common Pleas Court.

What if I fail to show up for the grand jury selection process?
The right to have the grand jury consider if a person should stand trial for a felony or infamous crime is guaranteed in Article I, Section 10 of our Ohio Constitution.  This right is one of the cornerstones of our American and State of Ohio forms of government and one of the few ways in which a citizen may take an active part in our criminal justice system.  Jury service is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens by our laws and if the summons is not honored, the Seneca County Common Pleas Court can order you to show cause why you should not be held in contempt of court due to your failure to appear.

How long am I required to serve if selected for the grand jury?
Your service will last for a 4 month term; however, ordinarily you will be appearing for sessions held every 2 weeks on Wednesdays during the term.  There may be special sessions added to the schedule from time to time, depending upon the number of cases to be considered and the length of time to present particular kinds of cases. 

Will I be paid for grand jury service?
You will receive $10.00 for each half day and $20.00 for each full day of grand jury service.  These amounts are established through a resolution of the Board of Seneca County Commissioners.  Work slips will be provided upon your request, stating for an employer the date of service for a half or full day session.  You will receive one check from the Seneca County Auditor’s Office for the total amountto be paid for your grand jury service after you have completed your term.   

What should I wear for grand jury duty?
You should wear comfortable clothing that enhances the dignity of your duty to inquire into the commission of crimes and emphasizes the seriousness of this responsibility.  Shorts of any kind, hats, tank tops, T-shirts, sweats, torn or soiled jeans, or other such informal attire is not considered appropriate apparel for grand jury service.

What hours will I serve?
Grand Jury sessions normally start at 8:45 a.m., every other Wednesday, with the grand jurors expected to be in the Grand Jury Conference Room at 8:30 a.m.  You will be informed at the beginning of the session whether it will be a half day or full day of case presentations.  You will receive an hour lunch break on your own if there are case presentations scheduled in the afternoon.  A prosecutor will dismiss you at the conclusion of the case presentations; but on a full day, you will be dismissed no later than 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

Where can I park my vehicle?
There is a city parking lot on South Washington Street across from the County Services Building (CSB) with some unlimited time spaces, there is a county lot adjacent to the CSB at the corner of E. Perry and S. Washington, and another county lot a short walking distance away from the CSB next to the RTA Building near the corner of E. Market and S. Washington in downtown Tiffin.

What is the composition and function of the grand jury?          
The grand jury, as established by Ohio law, is a body of nine (9) regular and five (5) alternate jurors who meet periodically to inquire into the commission of serious crimes committed within the county.  A foreperson and alternate foreperson is selected to facilitate discussions, record votes, and sign the grand jury report filed with Seneca County Common Pleas Court.  By law, the grand jury meets in secret; and as a public body, grand jury sessions are expressly exempt from the Ohio Open Meetings Act.  This exemption is established in law to protect the confidential nature of law enforcement criminal investigations and to protect the reputation of persons who may be suspects in criminal activity but are not charged with a crime because there is insufficient evidence to require these suspected persons to stand trial.

The specific function of the grand jury is to inquire into criminal offenses committed within the county to determine whether or not a person should be charged with a felony or other infamous crime and required to stand trial.  The grand jury will hear separate testimony from one or more witnesses who investigated the case or have knowledge of the suspected crime under review.  The charge returned is called a true bill of indictment, which is filed in Common Pleas Court upon at least seven (7) of nine (9) grand jurors determining that probable cause exists that a particular person committed a felony or other infamous crime in Seneca County.  If there is insufficient evidence or other information which does not rise to the required legal standard of probable cause to charge a felony crime, then a no bill is returned.  The grand jury may consider charging lesser degree offenses during their deliberations.

Will service on the grand jury be a rewarding experience?
While an inconvenience to you and requiring time away from your work or family, many grand jurors initially displeased with the prospect of jury service have completed their grand jury terms with comments that it was a rewarding experience and they would enjoy serving again in the future.  During their term of service, grand jurors become more familiar with criminal law and the crime problem in our communities, how the police must follow legal rules in collecting evidence to build an accusation in a criminal case, visit and inspect the county jail as required by law, and realize the importance of citizen involvement in the various aspects of our criminal justice system.

 

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