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AFFORCEMENT OF THE ASSIZE

Old English Law, Practice. An ancient practice in trials by jury. It consisted in adding other jurors to the panel of jurors, after the cause had been committed to them, in case they could not agree in a verdict. The author of Fleta (ubi sup) thus describes it. The oath having been administered to the jury, the (prenotarius) prothonotary, addressed them thus: 'You will say upon the oath you have taken, whether such a one unjustly and without judgment disseized such a one of his freehold in such a ville within three years or not.'

The justices also repeat for the instruction of the jurors the plaint of the plaintiff. The jurors then retire and confer together. If the jurors differ among themselves and cannot agree in one (sententiam) finding, it will be in the discretion of the judges to afforce the assize by others, provided there remain of the jurors summoned many as the major party of the dissenting jurors; or they may compel the same jurors to unanimity, viz. by directing the sheriff to keep them safely without, meat or drink until they agree.

The object of adding to the panel a number equal to the major party of the dissenting jurors, was to ensure a verdict by twelve of them, if the jurors thus added to the panel should concur with the minor party of the dissenting jurors. This practice of afforcing the assize, was in reality a second trial of the cause, and was abandoned, because the courts found it would save delay and trouble by insisting upon unanimity.

The practice of confining jurors without meat and drink in order to enforce unanimity, has in more modern times also been abandoned and the more rational practice adopted of discharging the jury and summoning a new one for the trial of the cause, in cases where they cannot agree. This expedient for enforcing unanimity was probably introduced from the canon law, as we find it was resorted to on the continent, in other cases where the unanimity of a consultative or deliberative body was deemed indispensable.

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