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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References in periodicals archive ?
Trial by compurgation (in which the winning litigant was the one who could bring a designated number of respected people to court willing to swear to the truth of his oath) was generally limited in post-Conquest England to minor civil disputes and misdemeanor criminal offenses.
Less serious criminal charges were resolved by compurgation.
Swedish legal procedure preserved traces of such archaic elements as compurgation, despite the appellate court's skepticism (34-35).
The merchants' opponent could contest its validity in several ways: by compurgation, that is, by swearing a counter oath that was backed by more or higher ranked oath helpers than the merchant could supply (Ebel 1974, p.
arose out of the practice in the ancient mode of trial by compurgation of