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The genesis of the jury can be traced back in time in the 12th century in England. It played a role in public matters where traditional decisions were made by a group constituting a majority of twelve people (jurors). The jury therefore acted as a way to screen out the incompetent prosecutions. It also served the public in two major ways: it limited the government's power to prosecute the citizens by permitting the jury to vote for or against an indictment and secondly, it had the power to make a presentment which they could make the public aware of the criminal activity including any other criminal activity by either the judge, prosecutor or government official. The purpose of the jury which consists of a sworn number of people is to give an impartial judgment or answer to a question by the court by investigating if there is enough evidence to either convict the accused as either guilty or not guilty.
There are benefits of having a jury is that there is enough public confidence with the outcome of the case as it is a barometer of public opinion. It is also independent of the judiciary and the executive and the judgment made by the jury is mainly based on the evidence itself. Among the limitations of having a jury is that it they might be in a hurry to get to a conclusion in order to be done with the case. This would mean that they achieve the wrong verdict and therefore undermine the principle of justice. They can also be influenced by the judge or barristers.
In most federal courts, the verdict reached must be unanimous. This means that all the members of the jury have agreed to that conclusion. In most cases the verdict is upheld by the judge presiding the trial. If the verdict reached is a majority verdict it means that the jury cannot agree on a verdict. There have been public debates as to whether the New South Wales should adopt a majority verdict system in most criminal systems. According to the Law Reforms Commission Report 111 (2005) - Majority verdicts "... NSW, all members of a jury in a criminal trial must unanimously agree with the decision either to convict or acquit the accused... As a result, the case will either be retried before a different judge and jury, or the prosecution may decide for various reasons not to pursue the matter any further".
The government is considering a proposal to scrap jury trials entirely because of the inconvenience it brings about. This is because with such a case of a hung jury, they have to be dismissed and a new jury appointed. In the research done in New Zealand, majority of hung cases came about due to questionable actions of a single juror. In the support of majority verdict as in the case of N.S.W in a highly publicized murder trial, accepted a majority verdict rather than the traditional unanimous verdict and other reported cases could be due to the infirmity and age of the defendant. Other reasons of adopting a majority verdict are for reasons as difficulty in recalling witnesses and also availability of evidence. It could also be because of the time period that has been invested in the case of the former Mayor of Cabramatta, on charges of conspiracy to murder John Newman, MP, and Member for Cabramatta. The verdict was reached after two attempts and the trial running for 13 weeks.
The advantage of having a majority verdict is that it is quicker and easier and it has less pressure on the jurors. It also negates on the effects of the rogue juror as the majority view decides on the matter. It also remains consistent with the civil proceedings.