compurgation

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compurgation

(kŏm'pərgā`shən), in medieval law, a complete defense. A defendant could establish his innocence or nonliability by taking an oath and by getting a required number of persons to swear they believed his oath. Compurgation, also called wager of law, was found in early Germanic law and in English ecclesiastical law until the 17th cent. In common law it was substantially abolished as a defense in felonies by the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164). Compurgation was still permitted in civil actions for debt, however, and vestiges of it survived until its final abolition in 1833. It is doubtful whether compurgation ever existed in America.
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The defendant might also be required to summon oath-helpers or "compurgators" who would likewise swear oaths supporting the defendant, and compurgators might be called as witnesses to swear to what they know under a set formula.
Indeed, it is only through Christ, the Divine Compurgator, that this literal breach of faith can be remedied.
At least thirty of their friends, relatives, and neighbors, the majority from St Saviour, became involved as witnesses and compurgators as their protracted suit ran on into its second year" (60).
That is, he would take an oath that he is not indebted, and he would bring into court eleven compurgators.