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Peine forte et dure

From Academic Kids

Peine forte et dure, (Law French for 'strong and hard punishment') was formerly a method of torture in the common law legal system, where the defendant who refused to plead ("stood mute") would be subjected to having heavier and heavier stones placed upon the chest until a plea was entered, or as the weight of the stones on the chest became too great for the victim to breathe, the victim would suffocate.

The common law courts originally took a very limited view of their own jurisdiction. They considered themselves to lack jurisdiction over a defendant until he had voluntarily submitted to it by entering a plea seeking judgment from the court. Obviously, a criminal justice system that only punished those who volunteered for punishment was unworkable; this was the means chosen to coerce them.

Many defendants charged with capital offences nonetheless refused to plead, since thereby they would escape forfeiture of property, and their heirs would still inherit their estate; but if the defendant pled guilty and was executed, their heirs would inherit nothing, their property escheating to the Crown. Peine forte et dure was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1772, although the last known actual use of the practice was in 1741. [1] (http://www.fsu.edu/~crimdo/forfeiture.html) Today, in all common law jurisdictions, standing mute is treated by the courts as equivalent to a plea of Not Guilty.

The most famous victim of peine forte et dure in American history was Giles Corey, who was pressed to death on September 19, 1692, during the Salem witch trials, after he refused to enter a plea in the judicial proceeding.

See also: Crushing, a related form of execution Template:Law-stubfr:Peine forte et dure

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