inquest


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to inquest: Coroner's inquest

Inquest

An inquiry by a Coroner or medical examiner, sometimes with the aid of a jury, into the cause of a violent death or a death occurring under suspicious circumstances. Generally an inquest may result in a finding of natural death, accidental death, suicide, or murder. Criminal prosecution may follow when culpable conduct has contributed to the death.

The body of jurors called to inquire into the circumstances of a death that occurred suddenly, by violence, or while imprisoned. Any body of jurors called to inquire into certain matters. (A Grand Jury is sometimes called a grand inquest, for example.)

The determination or findings of a body of persons called to make a legal inquiry or the report issued after their investigation.

The foundation of the modern jury system can be traced back to the Carolingian empire of medieval Europe during the eighth to the tenth centuries. The monarchs used a procedure called inquest, or inquisition, to help them consolidate their authority in the realm. They called together the people of the countryside and required them to recite what they considered to be the immemorial rights of the king. Once these rights were ascertained, they were adopted by the government and considered established. There was no accusation, verdict, or judgment in these proceedings, but the inquest fixed the right of the government to obtain information from its citizens.

The Norman invaders were not long on English soil when they used the inquest to compile the Domesday Book, a census compiled between 1085 and 1086 to record the ownership of land throughout the kingdom.

For this inquiry, citizens were called and required to give testimony under oath about their land and Personal Property.The inquest was also used in local courts in England during the Middle Ages. Since a person could not be tried for a crime until accused, a panel of four men from each vill and twelve from each hundred appeared before the court and charged certain individuals with crimes. The panel members appeared voluntarily, however, and were not summoned by a public officer as is done for an inquest today. Then in 1166 a law called the Assize of Clarendon made the inquest procedure mandatory. The panel of men was required to appear before local sheriffs and make regular accusations on their oaths. These cases then were tried in the royal courts because of the king's special interest in keeping the peace. This procedure was the origin of the modern grand jury.

A further step in consolidating the king's powers came with creation of the office of the coroner, so named for its service to the crown. In the Middle Ages the coroner was a powerful local official who kept records of appeals from lower courts, accusations, hangings, and public financial matters. He held inquests to investigate royal rights concerning fish, shipwrecks, treasure trove, and unexplained deaths. The purpose of such inquests was always to determine the extent of the king's financial interests. Anytime there was a death, the crown took whatever object had caused the death and all of the personal property of anyone who committed suicide or was convicted of a felony. From this early function of fiscal administration, the coroner today has become primarily responsible for managing dead bodies, but the inquest is still the procedure the coroner uses for investigation.

Cross-references

Clarendon, Constitutions of.

inquest

n. 1) an investigation and/or a hearing held by the coroner (a county official) when there is a violent death either by accident or homicide, the cause of death is not immediately clear, there are mysterious circumstances surrounding the death, or the deceased was a prisoner. Usually an autopsy by a qualified medical examiner from the coroner's office is a key part of the inquest. In rare cases a jury may be used to determine the cause of death. 2) a term used in New York for a hearing on the validity of a will by a surrogate judge. (See: coroner)

inquest

noun determination of damages, hearing, inquiry, interrogation, investigation, judicial inquiry, legal investigation, quaestio, quest, questioning, review, search, search into facts
Associated concepts: assessment of damages, civil inquest, coroner's inquest
See also: chase, cross-examination, examination, hearing, indagation, inquiry, inspection, interrogation, legal proceeding, pursuit, research, scrutiny, study, test, trial

inquest

an official examination of facts. In England and Wales the inquiry presided over by a coroner into the cause of death of an individual.

INQUEST. A body of men appointed by law to inquire into certain matters; as, the inquest examined into the facts connected with the alleged murder; the grand jury, is sometimes called the grand inquest. The judicial inquiry itself is also called an inquest. The finding of such men, upon an investigation, is also called an inquest or an inquisition.
     2. An inquest of office was bound to find for the king upon the direction of the court. The reason given is that the inquest concluded no man of his right, but only gave the king an opportunity to enter so that he could have his right tried. Moore, 730; Vaughan, 135; 3 H. VII. 10; 2 H. IV. 5; 3 Leon. 196.

References in periodicals archive ?
That should have resulted in inquests, which were originally opened in 1974, being properly concluded, but they were never resumed.
He said: "The inquest into Mr Lewis' death was opened for a pre-inquest review on August 22, the position then was the police were continuing their investigation.
The inquest had also heard from passer-by Andrew Dicks, who had called 999 after hearing cries from the water.
during inquest proceedings at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
The original inquest took place on 19 March 2002, and the Coroner recorded an open verdict which did not include a narrative conclusion.
A coroner recorded an open verdict, which did not include a narrative conclusion, following an inquest into Geoff's death in March 2002.
His family have won the right to apply to the High Court for a new inquest after Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC said he was satisfied fresh evidence had come to light.
April 18, 1990 South Yorkshire Coroner Dr Stefan Popper begins the first inquests in Sheffield.
An inquest into the 74-year-old's death at Bradford Coroner's Court heard yesterday that the blaze likely started with either a smouldering cigarette or a lit match.
WEST Midlands Police has revealed it plans to spend PS1 million on lawyers when the Birmingham pub bombings inquests are reopened.
Following last week's inquest verdicts, Danny Gordon, whose sister Anne Williams fought for new inquests, called for Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders to resign after claiming her position had become "untenable".
A claim for compensation for clinical negligence can be investigated at the same time as an inquest.