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The Age Of Reformation Essay, Research Paper

Jonathan Ellis

Per 2

Mrs. Wilson

Eng III

The Age of Reformation

From the days of King John to the more conformed days of new, our Criminal Justice System has come along way. Even today our methods have weak links but it’s progressed to get a person more rights and a fair and equal trial. Many special events and famous trials helped to improve the Criminal justice, so are our tax dollars finally getting put to good use?

When an offender was convicted, his property was usually forfeited. This forfeiture became a source of great revenue to the church or King depending upon what law was broken. In order to increase their revenue, kings frequently made various acts a crime in order to confiscate the property of a landowner or merchant. From the beginning of common law starting with the Magna Charta this documents is considered to be the forerunner of the present “due process” rights since the Magna Charta granted to the people of England certain political and civil rights (Stukey 49). The Magna Charta was a result of the King being unfair to the people of England and was signed during the reign of “Lion Hearted” King John, who known as the “cruel ruler.”

In the early treatment of an offender the two most common ways were Outlawry and a Blood feud. Perhaps the earliest method of handling one who was accused of committing a crime was to wage war upon him. It was held that when one had gone to war with the community by committing a crime, the community was not only entitled to, but was basically forced to make war upon the offender. The accused was declared “outlawed” or without the protection of the law. So the community was to search and kill him. As time passed, this form of punishment was inflicted upon only the person of lowest status, the slave. (Stukcey 44)

A Blood feud on the other hand the community might leave him unprotected against those he had offended, whereupon they might revenge themselves by taking what ever action they felt was appropriate with the crime committed, even to the killing of the offender. Also some of the offenders relatives might be killed also since not all persons were of the same status in the early history of England. The lowest status was the slave, next was the serf, who was bound to native soil instead of being the absolute property of master such as a slave, and last but not least was the King. (Lankevich 135)

In the first steps of determining guilt or innocence was trial by ordeal. In a trial by ordeal the accused had to perform a physical feat to prove his innocence. The prevalent ordeal used was the “hot iron.” The accused would appear before the altar, give his oath, and have his hand sprinkled with holy water. A red-hot iron would be laid across his hand, and he would take nine paces and drop the iron. (Lankevick128) The accused would return to the altar where a priest would bind his hand. Three days later, the accused would return to the priest and have his hand unbound. If the wound had healed, the accused was found innocent: if it had not healed, the accused was convicted guilty, and punished accordingly.

Another method of determining guilt or innocence was trail by battle. This method the accused and the accuser would go into actual combat with each other, usually with battle-axes. Before the battle took place each would swear to God that he was right. It is believed that the trial-by-battle procedure was brought to England by the Norman’s. The trial by battle was tolerated because it also involved a call to God, and the one who came forth the victor did so not from brute force but through the assistance of god. (Gilbert 228)

With basically the final step coming towards to the fair and equal-ness and also human way of determining guilt or innocence was coming of the establishment of juries. As early as the ninth century, Frankish kings on the European continent would summon, through a public officer, the most trust worthy people of a community. These people were then placed under oath to answer truthfully all questions directed at them during sessions with the king which later were to be named inquest. (Stuckey 31)

The accusatory jury had become such an important part of justice by the beginning of the thirteenth century that when King John ignored its use and acted upon his own knowledge of accusations, the right to an accusatory jury was made a part of the Magna Charta. Included In the provisions of the Magna Charta was this guarantee: “No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or diseased, or outlawed, or exiled, in any way harmed-nor will we go upon or send upon him-save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” It was expected that King John and all following Kings would comply with this guarantee- the forerunner of our grand jury system. (Stuckey 69)

For those who had to suffer to survive in an unequal and vigorous way the Magna Charta helped for the people in the future live a better life. As a battle to death has gotten passed over by a more proper way of trial by jury, the days of King John to the more conformed days of new, our Criminal Justice System has come along way. Many days have passed along searching for a clean and efficient criminal justice system but as long as we have crooked cops like Mark Furman saying “Damn Ni@#*r” there will always be some weak links.

Works Cited

Lankevich, George J. The United States Supreme Court .New York: Grolier 1986.

Frost, Elsizabeth. The Quotable lawyer .New York:Grolier 1985.

Gilbert, Stuckey. Procedures in the Justice System. New York: Excellent books 1992.


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