Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 12/4/17: Refusing to Plead

Under the common law, a defendant who refused to enter a plea was considered to be contesting the court’s jurisdiction and was subjected to ‘peine fort et dure’ — pressing under heavy weights — until the defendant either consented to plead or died by suffocation.  In the U.S., the only recorded use was against Giley Corey in 1692, who was pressed to death during the Salem Witch Trials. The procedure was abolished in the U.K. in 1772, when standing mute was made equivalent to a guilty plea.  Refusing to plead was changed to a ‘not guilty’ plea in the U.K. in 1827, as is the law now in all common law countries.


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