from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A method of trial in which an accused person could summon a specified number of people, usually 12, to swear to their belief in his or her innocence.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A form of trial in which the defendant took an oath of his innocence and summoned twelve people to swear that they believed him
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. The act or practice of justifying or confirming a man's veracity by the oath of others; -- called also wager of law. See purgation; also Wager of law, under wager.
- n. Exculpation by testimony to one's veracity or innocence.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In early English law, a mode of trial in which the accused was permitted to call twelve persons of his acquaintance to testify to their belief in his innocence. See compurgator. Compurgation in the ecclesiastical courts was not abolished till the reign of Elizabeth.
Very rarely acquittal by compurgation, that is by oath of the accused supported by the oaths of a number of persons that they believed he was telling the truth, was allowed.
[Footnote 602: This seems a possible interpretation of a dark sentence: 'Navigiis vecta commercia te suggerunt occupare, et ambitu cupiditatis exosae solum antiqua pretia definire, quod non creditur a suspicione longinquum etiam si non sit actione vicinum.'] [Footnote 603: Is this a kind of compurgation which is here proposed?] 'Wherefore we have thought it proper to warn your Sublimity by these presents, since we do not like those whom we love to be guilty of excess, nor to hear evil reports of those who are charged with reforming the morals of others.'
"compurgation" cease wholly till Queen Mary's reign.
And this he did by the transcription of both the debts of Onesimus unto himself; for the crime was of that nature as might be taken away by compurgation, being not capital.
Accused persons cleared themselves by compurgation, or underwent penalties
For civil suits there was a provision against 'wager of battle,' and the accused again cleared themselves by compurgation.
He was then attached either by pledges or by imprisonment; and the Justices held a very strict and careful inquisition into the case, as the result of which the accused might be wholly absolved, or he might be compelled to resort to compurgation.
He states that cases have come under his notice in which individuals have not only perjured themselves, but in private have not blushed to acknowledge it; and he shows very plainly the futility of the system by affirming that if a townsman objected to anyone claiming compurgation, he ran a risk of being assaulted, maimed, and even murdered.
For details of procedure we may glance at the very full accounts preserved in the records of the City of London, where there were in operation three sorts or forms of compurgation, by which persons appealed, impleaded, and accused might obtain acquittal.
The form of the oath which she was to swear was then communicated to her and the day for the compurgation fixed.