trial by battle

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Related to trial by battle: Trial by duel

trial by battle:

see ordealordeal,
ancient legal custom whereby an accused person was required to perform a test, the outcome of which decided the person's guilt or innocence. By an ordeal, appeal was made to divine authority to decide the guilt or innocence of one accused of a crime or to choose between
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Trial by Battle


a method of settling disputes by means of armed combat, used in the medieval judicial process. Trial by battle was regulated under lex Burgundionum, the Ripuarian code, and the Saxon Mirror. It was described in detail in Beau-manoir’s The Customs of Beauvaisis and was part of the Polish Law and the Bohemian legal code of the 14th century. In Russian legal sources of the 13th to 16th centuries, it is referred to as pole, “the field.”

Trial by battle usually involved two disputing parties, a disputant and a witness whose testimony the former considered false, or a disputant and a judge whose sentence the disputant considered unjust. Class differences determined the choice of weapon: noblemen fought with swords, while commoners fought with clubs. The first combatant to drop his weapon or shed blood was considered the loser of the trial. The first restrictions on trial by battle were introduced in England in the 12th century, but vestiges of the practice survived in Europe until the 17th century.

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Thus, while the tsar and his bureaucracy had many reasons to favor trials conducted with rational modes of proof, they did not want to alienate the service class, which had many reasons to want to retain the institution of trial by battle.
Professional fighters - lances for hire - had corrupted trial by battle.
It began with men fighting to their deaths in trial by battle.