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South Carolina
Judicial Branch
Juror Information - Two Kinds of Cases

In general, juries are called upon to decide two kinds of cases--civil and criminal.

A civil case usually involves a claim for money damages or some claim with respect to property. The party initiating the case is called the plaintiff. The filing of the plaintiff’s written claim, called the complaint, which is filed with the Clerk of Court, begins the suit.

The defendant, or party who is being sued, responds to the complaint by filing his answer in which he admits or denies the claims made by the plaintiff. In some instances, the defendant may make a counterclaim against the plaintiff or a cross claim against one of the other defendants. All of these documents make up what are called the pleadings. A juror should always remember that these pleadings are merely written claims of the parties and not evidence.

A criminal case is brought in the name of, and by, the State of South Carolina against a person, the defendant, charged with breaking the law. The attorney who represents the state is called the Solicitor or prosecutor. The case is ordinarily begun by the grand jury of a county. The written charge or accusation that is brought against the defendant is called an indictment. The indictment merely describes the crimes that the defendant is accused of committing and is not evidence. The fact that the grand jury brought an indictment against the defendant should also not be considered as evidence that the accused is guilty. The accused is not required to make a written answer to the indictment. He may plead guilty if he so chooses or he may plead not guilty and go to trial.