Josh Perldeiner

Document Type



The ancient and medieval custom of compurgation, the clearing of one’s name by producing oath-helpers, has a long and colored past in Anglo-American law. Also known as the Wager of Law after the late-11th century and the Norman Conquest, this process made considerable concession to the knowledge and power of local communities; oath-helpers were generally peers, and were considered to know intimate details concerning the case for which they were called. This Note will show that, once compurgation had substantially vanished (whether before or after the Assize of Clarendon), the importance of locality did not simply cease, but rather carried on, taken up through the formal inquest procedure in England. From there, it made its way into the jury trial, which we may trace, insofar as English law is concerned, to the Assize of Clarendon, though it has its beginnings long before that in general European jurisprudence. The final instantiation of this transformative process from compurgation is the power of a jury to nullify. Though juries may no longer be composed of locals expected to know the law, they are still expected to embody some element of local custom. Though this is a highly contested issue amongst jurists, I argue that the power of nullification (open to abuse though it is), is conceptually integral in the way that the modern jury system functions since the other elements of vicinage, or locality, have been stripped out one by one as the State has grown more powerful on the grand historical timeline.