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The Jury: Part 2

Jurors in the jury box

When I served as a judge, one of the most frequent contacts I had with the general public went something like this, “Hey Judge, I received a notice from the Sheriff that I have been selected for jury duty and I can’t serve because (insert excuse here.)” The request would lead to a discussion of civic duty, which did not often result in the retraction of the request. But one thing did, “What if you needed a jury? Would you appreciate someone with your reason being excused?” That at least caused the juror to think about it. On the other hand, people would...

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The Jury: Part 1

Jurors in the jury box

Most of my career as a prosecutor, judge, and now an attorney in private practice has one common thread woven throughout working with juries. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes frustrating but always fascinating, the ways that juries hear the evidence, consider the law and make their decisions never lose my interest. Recently, I was asked on a radio interview “Why do juries have twelve members?” My initial urge was to say, “Not all do.” And go into a description of how in Ohio civil and misdemeanor juries have eight members and grand juries have nine. But I resisted the urge to give the pedantic...

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What is a Grand Jury?

What is a Grand Jury

In Ohio, juries are generally one of two types: Grand or Petit (from the French for small or short) Juries. Grand juries have longer terms of service and consider many cases. Petit juries are called to try only one case.  In this article, we look at the history and function of the Grand Jury. In English legal history, each county had a Grand Jury serving for a term of court (in Ohio a term of court is for 4 months). The King's Judges rode circuits throughout the counties trying to have court in each county at least once per term. Without resident...

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What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor

Criminal charges in Ohio generally fit into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. So what is the difference between the two? Traditionally, a felony charge carries a potential prison sentence or the death penalty. Whether or not prison or death is imposed may be up to the jury or judge.  Two major changes have happened to change the general definition of felonies. The first is "mandatory sentences." Mandatory sentences are imposed for crimes involving among other things: sex, drug, and firearms offenses. If a person is convicted of this kind of crime, they must be sentenced to prison. The second is "non-prison" felonies. These offenses...

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The Basics of Bail: Part 2

The Basics of Bail

In my last article, I explained the different kinds of bail bonds that permit an accused to be released from jail pending trial. The most important aspect of bail is how the court is supposed to set the type and amount of bond to assure the accused’s appearance in court. Ohio law provides that a judge must consider the following factors in setting bail bond: 1. Nature and circumstances of the crime charged, and specifically whether the defendant used or had access to a weapon; 2.Weight of the evidence against the defendant; 3.Confirmation of the defendant’s identity; 4.Defendant’s family ties, financial resources, character, mental condition, length...

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The Basics of Bail: Part 1

The Basics of Bail

An initial hurdle to cross in criminal defense is how to obtain an accused person’s release from jail pending trial. The accused must “post bail.” The image from movies is a bail bondsman, with a neon-lighted office near the jail taking money from the accused’s family and warning the accused that Dog the Bounty Hunter will be looking for him if he “skips bail.” The reality is different, and a bit more complicated. First, what is the purpose of bail? Simply, bail assures the accused’s appearance as required in court. There are three general types of bail: recognizance, “10%,” and surety. Recognizance bail often...

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What to Expect in a Criminal Investigation

What to Expect in a Criminal Investigation

A criminal investigation can be a very stressful and confusing time for you. Below are frequently asked questions and answers to guide you, or a loved one, when facing a criminal investigation: Q: Do I need an attorney during a criminal investigation? A:  Not always- but it is highly recommended. An attorney will be able to ensure that law enforcement officials are properly, ethically, and legally conducting said investigation. The U.S. Constitution and Ohio Constitution provide an abundance of protections to those who are under criminal investigation. As such, an attorney will ensure that your rights are protected.   Q: I cannot afford an attorney during a criminal investigation, what do I...

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