Inquest

An inquest is a judicial investigation in common law jurisdictions, conducted by a judge, jury, or government official. The most common kind of inquest is an inquiry including a medical examination by a coroner into the cause of a death that was sudden, violent or suspicious, or occurred in prison.[citation needed] A coroner's jury may be convened to assist in this type of proceeding. Inquest can also mean such a jury and the result of such an investigation. In general usage, inquest is also used to mean any investigation or inquiry.

An inquest uses witnesses, but suspects are not permitted to defend themselves. The verdict can be, for example, natural death, accidental death, misadventure, suicide, or murder. If the verdict is murder or culpable accident, criminal prosecution may follow, and suspects are of course able to defend themselves there.

Since juries are not used in most European civil law systems, these do not have any (jury) procedure similar to an inquest, but medical evidence and professional witnesses have been used in court in continental Europe for centuries.[1][2][3]

Larger inquests can be held into disasters, or in some jurisdictions (not England & Wales) into cases of corruption.[3]

Contents

History

The inquest, as a means of settling a matter of fact, developed in Scandinavia and the Carolingian Empire before the end of the tenth century.[4] It was the method of gathering the survey data for the Domesday Book in England after the Norman conquest.[4]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, all inquests were once conducted with a jury. They acted somewhat like a grand jury, determining whether a person should be committed to trial in connection to a death. Such a jury was made up of up to twenty-three men, and required the votes of twelve to render a decision. Similar to a grand jury, a Coroner's Jury merely accused, it did not convict.

Since 1927, Coroner's Juries have rarely been used in England. Under the Coroners Act, 1988,[5] a Jury is only required to be convened in cases where the death occurred in prison, police custody, or in circumstances which may affect public health or safety. The coroner can actually choose to convene a jury in any investigation, but in practice this is rare. The qualifications to sit on a Coroner's Jury are the same as those to sit on a jury in Crown Court, the High Court, and the county courts.[6]

Additionally, a Coroner's Jury only determines cause of death, its ruling does not commit a person to trial. While grand juries, which did have the power to indict, were abolished in the United Kingdom by 1948 (after being effectively stopped in 1933), Coroner's Juries retained those powers until the Criminal Law Act 1977. This change came about after Lord Lucan was charged in 1975 by a Coroner's Jury in the death of Sandra Rivett, his children's nanny.[6]

United States

A coroner's jury deemed Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and their posse guilty in the death of Frank Stilwell in March 1882.[7]

Cultural references

References

External links


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Synonyms:
, (especially by a coroner) / (particularly a coroner's jury)


Look at other dictionaries:

  • inquest — in·quest / in ˌkwest/ n [Anglo French enqueste, from Old French, ultimately from Latin inquirere to ask about, from in within, into + quaerere to seek] 1: a judicial or official inquiry or examination often before a jury a coroner s inquest… …   Law dictionary

  • Inquest — In quest, n. [OE. enqueste, OF. enqueste, F. enqu[^e]te, LL. inquesta, for inquisita, fr. L. inquisitus, p. p. of inquirere. See {Inquire}.] 1. Inquiry; quest; search. [R.] Spenser. [1913 Webster] The laborious and vexatious inquest that the soul …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • inquest — late 13c., an queste legal or judicial inquiry, from O.Fr. enqueste inquiry, from V.L. *inquaestia (Cf. It. inchiesta), from fem. pp. of V.L. *inquirere inquire (see INQUIRE (Cf. inquire)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • inquest — investigation, probe, inquiry, inquisition, research Analogous words: examination, inspection, scrutiny, audit (see under SCRUTINIZE): questioning, interrogation, catechizing, examining (see corresponding verbs at ASK) …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • inquest — [n] investigation delving, examination, hearing, inquiry, inquisition, probe, probing, quest, research, trial; concepts 48,290,318 Ant. conclusion, findings …   New thesaurus

  • inquest — ► NOUN 1) a judicial inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to an incident. 2) Brit. an inquiry by a coroner s court into the cause of a death. ORIGIN Old French enqueste, from Latin inquirere, from quaerere speak …   English terms dictionary

  • inquest — [in′kwest΄] n. [ME enqueste < OFr < VL * inquaesita, fem. pp. of * inquaerere: see INQUIRE] 1. a judicial inquiry, as a coroner s investigation of a death 2. the jury or group holding such an inquiry 3. the verdict of such an inquiry …   English World dictionary

  • inquest — noun (esp. BrE) investigation into cause of death ADJECTIVE ▪ full ▪ fresh ▪ coroner s VERB + INQUEST ▪ conduct, hold …   Collocations dictionary

  • inquest — UK [ˈɪŋkwest] / US [ˈɪŋˌkwest] noun [countable] Word forms inquest : singular inquest plural inquests 1) an official attempt by a court to find the cause of someone s death inquest into: an inquest into the death of her husband hold an inquest:… …   English dictionary

  • inquest — n. 1) to conduct, hold an inquest 2) a coroner s; formal inquest 3) an inquest into * * * [ ɪnkwest] formal inquest hold aninquest a coroner s an inquest into to conduct …   Combinatory dictionary

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