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We’re answering your questions about Cleveland’s court system.

The Marshall Project is answering questions from the community about Cuyahoga County’s criminal courts, and sharing what we have gathered from the public docket of felony cases.

We’ll be adding more information, so check back or sign up for an alert when we answer more questions. Have a question you’d like us to tackle? Ask us. If we can answer it, we will.

We do not include the personal information of people who faced charges. To look up a specific case, use the clerk of the court’s website. Check out our download page to get some of the raw data we used to answer the questions below.

How many cases were filed each year?
Last updated May 9, 2022

Number of cases by year

What is included?

A case can include one or more felony charges, against one or more defendants. Our tally of new felony case filings per year counts each case once per defendant. The number of cases filed in 2020 dropped due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases from prior to 2016 that are ongoing, reactivated or transferred are not counted.

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What are we counting as a case?
Last updated May 9, 2022

We have 69,056 felony cases in the data filed between 2016 and 2021 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

Cases are filed when the county prosecutor believes a person committed a crime that is a felony in Ohio. The filing follows an arrest or a criminal investigation by law enforcement. In most cases, a grand jury of residents determines whether a case is indicted, which means it will be assigned to a judge. If the grand jury does not issue an indictment, the case is closed and referred to as a “no bill.”

We count filings using the case number that is assigned when prosecutors tell the court they are pursuing criminal charges. Each case number is associated with one or more felony charges against a single defendant.

Cases can be dismissed, diverted to a community program or they can result in a guilty plea or a verdict of guilt or innocence for each charge.

Our data does not always include cases that were sealed or expunged by the court. 

How many defendants had cases?
Last updated May 9, 2022

43,447 people had cases filed against them from 2016 to 2021.

This includes each person who had one or more felony cases filed against them. Each defendant is counted once, even if they were involved in multiple cases. 

What are the racial demographics of the defendants?
Last updated May 11, 2022

Number of defendants by race

The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court lists three categories related to race: Black, White and Asian. It also includes Hispanic, which is an ethnicity. When indictments are filed against “John Does” or “Unknown Males” for felony crimes that are based on DNA or other evidence — like sexual assaults — the race category is sometimes left blank. We designated those as “Unknown.”

Court officials said information related to a defendant’s race comes from the law enforcement agency that makes the arrest or files the charges.

Reported and written by Ilica Mahajan, Rachel Dissell and Anna Flagg

Edited by David Eads

Design by Elan Kiderman Ullendorff and Katie Park

Development by Katie Park