(redirected from inquests)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.
Related to inquests: Coroner's inquest, Coroners Rules


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.


Clarendon, Constitutions of.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


an official examination of facts. In England and Wales the inquiry presided over by a coroner into the cause of death of an individual.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
He added that, even though the inquests have now been concluded, West Midlands Police would still be using funds to pursue criminal proceedings against those responsible for the bombings.
A senior coroner has urged more than 100 legal experts to always put the family at the heart of an inquest.
Amid scenes which could not be reported until the conclusion of the inquests due to potential prejudice to the jury, the former Labour MP for Sunderland South appeared shaken by shouts of "scum" and "disgrace".
A pre-inquest hearing was told that nine weeks of inquests will start on February 11, 2019, and will include pen portraits of each of the victims.
The hearing was the third preinquest review into the May 2017 atrocity, which claimed 22 lives, but the first since retired High Court judge Sir John Saunders was appointed as coroner for the inquests. Mr Justice Saunders said a final date for the start of full oral inquest hearings was 'still some way off ' and preparation could take at least a year.
The Formby mum, 62, had always maintained that Kevin had been alive beyond the 3.15pm cut-off point for evidence at the original inquests and campaigned for years to have the verdicts overturned.
In light of this recent turn of events, Sherene Razack's thought provoking book titled Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody is a relevant and timely contribution to both academic and public debates.
He does not believe the inquests should be run concurrently and says a potential delay would be "incredibly frustrating" and "without any clear advantage to anyone".
Durham and Darlington Coroner Andrew Tweddle will open the inquests, on February 1, of Frank Moss, 59, Stanley Weldon and Harry Gittings, both 74, who were all patients of doctor Howard Martin.
Lady Justice Hallett, a Court of Appeal judge, has been appointed to conduct the inquests, the Judicial Communications Office said.
Here are some facts about the inquest process: l Inquests are official inquiries held in England and Wales into deaths that appear violent, unnatural, of a sudden and unknown cause, or in some way suspicious.