Jury Rights and Responsibilities

Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. Jury service is one of the most important civic duties you can perform and the strength of the justice system depends on jurors. Jurors are ordinary citizens who are willing to consider the evidence presented, to apply the governing law, and to deliberate in good faith to render a just verdict. The ju...ror aids in the maintenance of law and order, and upholds justice. To serve as a juror is an honor, as well as a fascinating experience.

As a juror, you gain a firsthand lesson in Democracy because the adverse parties are present in the courtroom and the jury's verdict will directly affect them. Although many citizens seek to avoid jury duty, once they actually serve on a jury, a transformation ensues. They understand the significance of their task, and perform it seriously, which may explain the positive experience they have towards the jury after they have actually served on one.

For instance, in a high-profile fraud case, nine jurors reported a positive experience. The nine jurors decided a Wall Street trader was liable for six of the seven counts against him. For more than 13 hours, the five women and four men considered and deliberated the evidence. During the discussion tension mounted among the nine as the deliberations dragged on. Some jurors expressed sympathy towards the Wall Street trader and viewed him as a "scapegoat," while other jurors questioned his honesty. But ultimately, the jury's decision came down to what the jurors saw as the letter of the law and that the trader had violated the law.

After, the verdict the nine jurors-which included educators, a stockbroker, an Episcopal priest, and a digital advertising employee-expressed their positive feelings towards the jury experience. The jury foreman suggested a reunion and another juror collected everyone's e-mail address. It was even suggested that they should go out for a drink.

However, despite the positive feelings ordinary citizens report about the jury and their jury experience, the jury is under attack in the popular media and in some state legislatures. While citizens form their views based on their actual jury experience, the media and legislators have other sources and other pressures shaping the views. For example, the press is likely to focus on the interest of their readers, and make interesting events seem important. Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that the press has focused its coverage largely on high profile cases, high damage awards, and on juror bias.

What the popular press fails to cover are the features designed both to ensure that the jury system is fair. The first key feature is a venire, which is a panel of perspective jurors summoned from a fair cross-section of the community. Next, the jurors are questioned during voir dire in open court about their ability to serve. The through voir dire judges and lawyers question jurors about their knowledge of the facts of the case, opinions about the issues that might arise, or life experiences that might affect how jurors perceive the evidence they might hear during the course of the trial. Then, the jurors are struck from petit jury, through the exercise of for cause or preemptory challenges, if they cannot be impartial or if they do not appear to be impartial. Once the trial is over, the jury deliberates in secret, closed off from all those in the courtroom. Finally, the jury reaches a verdict and this verdict is announced in open court. The individual jurors can then be polled to make sure that they are in agreement with the verdict. As you can see, every stage of the jury process and jury selection is designed to ensure that the jury system is fair.

Finally, jurors are not required to comprise or make a unanimous decision. In fact, the protection of our rights and liberties is achieved through jurors willing to stay firm with their belief. Every juror must draw from their common sense and everyday experiences to render a just verdict. It is the juror's duty to hear the evidence, apply the law, and to deliberate in good faith to render a verdict. A juror should not be swayed in their belief even when all the other jurors disagree.