inquest

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Related to inquests: Coroner's inquest, Coroners Rules

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 ?
Coroner Mr Thornton's barrister, Sir Peter Skelton QC, countered that inquests were not the correct arena to consider who carried out the bombings, and risked turning forthcoming hearings into a "proxy criminal trial".
The inquest is expected to last three days and to hear from 10 witnesses.
Birmingham and Solihull coroner Louise Hunt made the historic ruling to reopen the inquests earlier this month.
Anne, who died in 2013 before the new inquests started, applied to the Attorney General in 1996 asking for 15-year-old Kevin's previous inquest to be quashed.
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".
A claim for compensation for clinical negligence can be investigated at the same time as an inquest.
Mr Grieve will appear in person at the High Court to argue that new evidence means there should be fresh inquests.
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.
l Most inquests are held in front of a coroner, an independent judicial officer, sitting alone.
He told the central London hearing, which is set to last six months: "These inquests have been very wide-ranging and many aspects of the evidence, many would say, have only marginal, if any, relevance to the issues that have to be decided.
Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan fear inquests are being given to inexperienced coroners to help clear a massive backlog.
A: According to English law, inquests must be held into deaths abroad if they are deemed not to have occurred due to natural causes.