The jury in the Grace Millane murder trial has retired to deliberate - meaning a verdict could be reached within hours.

The Crown allege that the accused - who has interim name suppression - murdered Millane on December 1 or 2 last year in his central Auckland apartment then put her body in a suitcase and buried it in a shallow grave in the Waitakere Ranges.

While the accused admits being in the room when Millane died, and disposing of her body - he denies the charge of murder, saying her death was an accident and he simply panicked after she died and tried to hide her remains.

The trial in the High Court at Auckland started on November 4 and the jury has now heard almost three weeks of evidence and watched hours of footage including CCTV of Millane and her alleged killer on their fatal date, and his interviews with police.

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Grace Millane murder trial: Prosecution and defence close their case. Video / Chris Tarpey

Justice Simon Moore summed up the case this morning and then sent the jury to consider the evidence and make a decision on whether the Crown has not proven its case against the accused and he is guilty of the charges - or oppositely, if he should be acquitted.

"Decisions on the facts are entirely up to you," he said.

"If I appear to indicate a view of the evidence which doesn't accord of your own view, then you must act on your own view and not mine.

"Decisions on the credibility, reliability of witnesses, that's for you, not me."

The jury has now heard all the evidence in the Grace Millane murder trial. Photo / Supplied
The jury has now heard all the evidence in the Grace Millane murder trial. Photo / Supplied

He said the media had "saturated" the public with coverage of the case and reminded the jury of the "firm" direction he had made to them on day one about ignoring all of that.

"It's critically important that you make your findings on this case solely on the evidence you heard in this courtroom and nowhere else," said Justice Moore.

"Let me just remind you of the reasons for that. Media reports are often inaccurate, incomplete and not infrequently - simply wrong.

"And it would be totally unfair of you to judge this case based on things you have seen beyond the walls of this courtroom."

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Trial judge Justice Simon Moore.
Trial judge Justice Simon Moore.

The judge said the accused and the Crown deserved to have their cases decided based on the evidence - and not on anything else.

"You can see why it would both be fundamentally wrong and fundamentally unfair to take into account anything other than what you have seen, read or heard in this court.

"You must reach your verdict without prejudice against, or sympathy for, anyone connected to this case."

Justice Moore said it was entirely natural for the jury to have feelings of sympathy to the Millane family and Grace.

But he said feelings of that sort "cannot intrude into the solemn task" of reaching a verdict.

He said regardless of their feelings about the accused and his social or sexual practises, they had to remain unbiased.

"What you must not do is say to yourself that because you don't like or do not approve of the accused's lifestyle, he must be guilty.

"That would be completely illogical…. You must use the evidence for legitimate purposes."

He reminded each juror they were a judge and had taken an oath or affirmation when sworn into the role.

"No judge can ever allow feelings of sympathy to influence their decision," he reminded them.

"The accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence and the onus is on the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

"The onus of proving the charges lies on the Crown.

"You must treat [the accused] as innocent until you are satisfied the Crown has proved his guilt on the charge.

"The Crown must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Justice Moore said it was "not enough" to believe the accused was "probably" or "very likely" guilty.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said the accused acted out of fear because he didn't think anyone would believe his story. Photo / Michael Craig
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said the accused acted out of fear because he didn't think anyone would believe his story. Photo / Michael Craig

"You must be sure," he said.

"If you're not sure, it's your duty to acquit."

THE JURY PROCESS: GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?

Thousands of people across New Zealand are called via a random selection process on to serve on juries each year.

They have arguably the most important role in a trial - it is up to them to weigh up the evidence presented and make the final decision on whether a defendant is guilty or not.

While a lot of people have experienced being on a jury there are also many people who have no idea how a jury operates.

The trial has been heard in the High Court at Auckland.
The trial has been heard in the High Court at Auckland.

So, what does a jury actually do during deliberations?

After a trial judge has summed up the case, the jury is directed to a specific room to decide their verdicts.

They must make a decision on each charge a defendant is facing separately.

HOW DELIBERATIONS WORK

The jury deliberate in a private room which only they and court staff can enter and exit.

During deliberations they cannot speak to anyone outside that room.

The Ministry of Justice outlines the role and duty of jurors during deliberations.

"You're expected to decide on a verdict by discussing the case and the evidence with the other jurors," the guidelines state.

"Court exhibits may be provided to help with this"

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Exhibits are pieces of physical evidence that have been presented in the trial.

"Although the jury discusses the trial as a group, it's important that you decide for yourself whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty," the ministry advises.

"You might not agree with the opinions of other jurors, but you need to discuss the evidence sensibly and listen to what the other jurors say.

"You and the other jurors must tell the court staff if you're being pressured into deciding on a verdict that you don't believe in."

Jurors are also able to change their mind during the deliberation process, if they become "sure" that their earlier thinking was wrong.

"In fact, it's your duty to do so," says the ministry.

"Don't change your mind, though, if you firmly believe you're right but other jurors disagree.

"Don't change your mind simply to let the jury agree on a verdict."

If jurors have a question about the law, evidence or other trial matters during deliberations they can send a question to the presiding judge.

This is done via a handwritten note passed from the jury foreperson to the court attendant.

THE VERDICT

The jury must try to reach a unanimous verdict where everyone agrees that the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Once that verdict is reached the foreperson tells the court attendant and the judge is brought back to the courtroom.

The jury returns to the jury box, and the defendant is brought back into court.

The court registrar will ask the foreperson whether the whole jury has agreed on a verdict and they will respond, and reveal their decision to the court.

If the jury can't reach a unanimous verdict after a reasonable time, the judge may accept a majority verdict meaning 11 of the 12 jurors can agree and the decision will be accepted.

However if the jury can't reach a unanimous verdict or a majority verdict, the judge may declare a hung jury.

If that occurs, a new trial is held with a new jury.

JURY LOCK-UPS POSSIBLE, BUT RARE

Juries deliberate from 10am until 5pm each day - standard court hours.

In most trials, the jury is allowed to go home at the end of each day even if they haven't reached a verdict.

They return the following morning to continue their deliberation.

On rare occasions, the trial judge may sequester a jury - meaning they have to stay together, usually in a hotel, until they reach a verdict. This is not expected to be the case for the Grace Millane jury.

When this happens jurors are provided with accommodation and other necessities.
Juries are sequestered only in serious or unusual cases.

In one-high profile drug case in 2002 case a jury was sequestered for the duration of a trial.

Leading Head Hunters gang member Peter Cleven - described as police as the "kingpin of organised crime" was facing charges of supplying methamphetamine over a two-year period and of dealing cannabis over 12 years.

He was accused of having hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained income gained through a drugs operation conducted on a large and organised scale.

Once the jury was empanelled trial judge Justice John Laurenson ordered them to be sequestered.

The jurors were allowed time to go home to pick up personal belongings and to tell family and employers they would be sequestered until the end of the case.

Outside court hours they were placed in accommodation arrangements made for them to contact their families at evenings or over the weekend.

After a 17-day trial the jury acquitted Cleven on all charges.