Ian’s Sporadic Legal Fact of the Summer 7/18/16: Failing to Plead

Under the common law, a defendant who failed to enter a plea was subjected to peine fort et dure — pressing under heavy weights — until he or she either consented to plead or died by suffocation, as it was thought the defendant was not accepting the court’s jurisdiction.  In the U.S., the only recorded use was against Giles Corey in 1692, who died as a result of this procedure during the Salem Witch Trials.  It was formally abolished in the U.K. in 1772. In common law jurisdictions, failing to plead is now treated as a ‘not guilty’ plea.


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