In the State of Ohio, a trial is a hearing in court before a judge or jury to resolve disputes between two or more parties. If a party requests a jury trial, it must be demanded in accordance with the civil rules. The number of jurors is controlled by Civil Rule 38(B), and may be as many as twelve jurors in certain matters, but is limited to eight members in most cases. The parties may also stipulate to a smaller amount of jurors. Trials are controlled by Title VI of the Civil Rules, which includes rules 38 to 53.
A jury trial begins with a short introduction by the court explaining the general nature of the case and the positions of each party. The prospective jurors will learn a little about the case and what the underlying basis for the dispute. After this introduction, the attorneys will begin a process known as voir dire, which determines the jury that will hear the case. This process is controlled by Civil Rule 47. The parties have the opportunity to dismiss potential jurors for cause or they may dismiss up to three potential jurors for any reason, known as peremptory challenges.
Once a jury is selected, the parties will begin with their opening statements. The plaintiff will go first followed by the defendant. The opening statements provide each parties version of the evidence that will be presented to the jury. The parties advocate for their position and attempt to sway the jury into their favor.
After opening statements, the plaintiff will have an opportunity to present his or her case in chief. This involves the presentation of witness testimony, physical evidence, and expert testimony. Each witness will placed under oath. The plaintiff has the opportunity to examine the witness through questioning. After the plaintiff finishes the questioning, the defendant will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Cross-examination is limited to the topics discussed in the plaintiff’s questioning, as well as any other topics which may attack the credibility of the witness. After the defendant has completed the cross-examination, the plaintiff may re-direct the witness to clarify any testimony that was attacked during the cross-examination.
After the plaintiff has completed their case in chief, the defendant will have an opportunity to present their side of the story. The defendant may call witnesses, present evidence, and include expert testimony in the same manner the plaintiff did in their case in chief. The plaintiff will cross-examine the defendant’s witnesses. The defendant can re-direct.
After the parties have presented their case, they will engage in closing arguments, which should tie the entire case together. The parties will refer to the testimony and the evidence presented during their case and advocate that the judge or jury should find in their favor. It is the last opportunity to present the case to the judge or jury before deliberation occurs. If it is a jury trial, after the parties have completed their closing arguments, the judge will advise the jury regarding the law and the duties they must perform.
In the State of Ohio, the jury must render a verdict based upon the concurrence of three-fourths or more of their number. Usually the jury will deliberate to determine two main questions regarding liability and damages. If the jury determines the defendant is liable to the plaintiff, the next decision is to determine what award should be given. This usually involves an amount of money paid by the defendant to the plaintiff.
Once a jury has rendered its decision, the verdict will be read in court by the judge. The parties have the option to poll each juror individually. After this process is completed, the jury is discharged and has completed its civic duty.
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