Many legal systems throughout the world provide for a right to trial by jury in criminal and/or civil cases. Although there are differences with regard to how a jury is convened, who may be a member of a jury, and how many people make up a jury, the responsibilities of a juror are generally similar in all legal systems. A member of a jury is responsible for rendering an impartial verdict on an issue that is presented to the jury, or is responsible for determining a punishment or penalty once a party has been found guilty in a criminal case or liable in a civil case. A juror also has a number of other responsibilities, such as honesty to the tribunal, listening to and considering all the evidence, and working with the other jury members to reach a verdict.
Most countries that use a common law legal system afford parties the right to a trial by jury. Common law legal systems began in the United Kingdom and, therefore, most countries that have historical ties to England, such as Singapore, Canada, and the United States, are common law jurisdictions. In a common law system, the law is ever-evolving through decisions made by judges and juries as opposed to a civil law system, where the laws are made by the legislature.
In most legal systems where juries are used, the jurors are selected from an available pool of local residents. Within the United States, potential jurors are frequently selected by random from the list of eligible voters in the jurisdiction. A juror should be an impartial and unbiased member of the community.
A juror has a number of important responsibilities starting from the moment he or she is selected for jury duty. Honesty to the tribunal is of utmost importance. A potential juror will be questioned before being selected as a final member of the jury. During this questioning, known as voir dire, a potential juror should inform the court if he or she is affiliated with any of the parties to the case in any way, or if he or she feels that he or she cannot render an impartial verdict for any reason.
A juror must also listen to all the evidence presented at a trial. Each piece of evidence and each person's testimony should be considered equally by a jury member. In many cases, a person's life or freedom is at stake and, therefore, a juror must devote his or her complete attention to the proceedings.
Once the trial has concluded, a juror has an obligation to consider the evidence and work with the other jury members in order to reach a verdict. In some legal systems the verdict must be unanimous, which may require a considerable amount of time to reach. If a juror is elected to be the jury foreperson, then he or she has the additional responsibility of guiding and directing the jury members toward a verdict.