Sara Margaret Butler deposited “Local Concerns: Suicide and Jury Behavior in Medieval England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 years, 10 months ago
When confronted with cases of self-killing, medieval jurors had to contend with a vast array of often conflicting concerns, from religious and folkloric condemnations of the act of suicide, to fears for the welfare of the family of the dead, and to coping with royal confiscations of a felon’s goods. All of these factors had a profound impact on the verdicts put forward by members of the jury during the various stages of the legal process. While these elements form the base of jury verdicts relating to self-killings, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that medieval juries did not respond uniformly to cases of suicide. Rather, jurors at various stages of the process differed widely in their familiarity with the dead and this familiarity had an impact on their judgments. Members of the coroners’ inquest juries were often neighbors of the dead, and thus their verdicts reflected a more local resolution to the death of a community member than the verdicts of presentment or trial juries.