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

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 ?
"The concern is that an inquest could be carried out with a bias toward answering the questions the military want answered, but not the questions the family want answered."
The monitoring role at INQUEST is one of its key functions.
In Ontario, the Coroner's jury can offer only a one-or two-word response at the conclusion of the inquest. The jury must decide that the death in question is a result of an accident, natural causes, undetermined suicide or a homicide.
OCL An inquest, he said, would help to identify the unwarranted risks that face people when community-based supports are not available to them.
The full inquest into the death of 25-year-old George Tweedie, whose burned body was found in a car boot in May 2002, will take place in Coventry on January 5.
Dr John Burton, 71, who is coroner for the Royal Household, has been campaigning for 20 years to change the law that insists an inquest must be carried out in every case where a body is returned to Britain following a death abroad.
This is a neat and well-written insider-outsider account of the history of INQUEST, the pressure group established in 1981 to provide families and friends involved in inquests with legal and emotional support.
Once a case is put on the residential default calendar, and the tenant still fails to appear, the case is set down for inquest. Often, months may pass before the landlord's attorney is notified of an inquest date.
On the inquest that will resume Thursday, Zuraida said she would contact Attorney-General Tommy Thomas for the name of the lawyer who would represent the ministry and JBPM.
During the annual Inquest Seminar hosted by No5 Barristers' Chambers at Maple House in the city, keynote speaker Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, told the audience her view followed the Hillsborough inquests, and said there was a significant focus now on the bereaved within the inquest process.
STAR BRIEFING A senior coroner has urged more than 100 legal experts to always put the family at the heart of an inquest.