An aborted jury trial has been in the Australian news headlines this last week and it reminded me of another jury trial in my family history where the jury effectively voted on the fate of the accused. Found guilty of murder, Gerald Mainwaring was sentenced to hang. It transpired, however, that the jury, unable to agree, had drawn a ballot to decide Mainwaring’s fate. There was an appeal to the Home Secretary and his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.

Anne's Family History

In 1879, Gerald Mainwaring, my first cousin four times removed, just 24 years old, was tried and found guilty of murder. The case, widely reported, caused a sensation.

From the mid-1870s Mainwaring had lived in Canada, farming in Manitoba. In April 1879 he returned to England to attend the wedding of his sister Julia.  A few months later, due to return to Canada, he went on a spree in Derby.  He got drunk, and driving a trap with a ‘female companion’ too fast through the town, was pulled over by the police. When they began a search of his lady friend, Mainwaring fired several shots from a revolver, wounding two policemen, one fatally.

Found guilty of murder, he was sentenced to hang. It transpired, however, that the jury, unable to agree, had drawn a ballot to decide Mainwaring’s fate. There was an appeal to the Home Secretary

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