Mitior sensus

MITIOR SENSUS, construction. The more lenient sense. It was formerly held in actions for libel and slander, that when two or more constructions could be put upon the words, one of which would not be actionable the words were to be so construed, for verba accipienda sunt in mitiore sensu. 4 Co. 13, 20. It is now, however, well established, that they are not to be taken in the more lenient, or more severe sense, but in the sense which fairly belongs to them, and which they were intended to convey. 2 Campb. 403; 2 T. R. 206.

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Helmholz argues, to say that a man "had the use" of a woman's body might imply adultery or fornication, whereas "under the mitior sensus construction," lawyers might claim "that no action should lie because a physician might have use of a woman's body in order to cure her of a disease.
As this exchange suggests, while the doctrine of mitior sensus might have been abolished by Chief Justice Parker in cases of individual libel, jurists (and their political spokesmen of the press) now struggled with the more complex challenge of prosecuting satirists for libels on public figures, a process that required new methods of ascribing certain identities to satiric victims as well as critical maneuvers capable of ascribing determinate meanings to ambiguous or ironically encoded discourse.
34) The whole discussion of the "libelous" character of The Craftsman occupies one of these grey zones, revealing the ways in which traditional interpretations of the mitior sensus doctrine were transformed, even inverted, under the pressures of political prosecution.
In an apparent inversion of the earlier mitior sensus doctrine, prosecutors now argued for the widest interpretive latitude while lawyers for the defense routinely insisted that the words in the passages under indictment ought to be understood in their most literal and natural sense, as if the equivocations in the text were of no consequence to its meaning.