The history of the American justice system, statutory, constitution, and decisionary, grew from the English system centuries ago. Back in the twelfth century, under King Henry II, England had the “common law”. It was established to avoid the unfairness, eccentricity, and inconsistencies of rules and penalties that sound alike, read alike, and serve a common purpose, but have wide ranging interpretations, consequences, and results. The Common Law replaced the federal customs, Germanic customs and other customs and practices that were previously considered the wide body of the law applicable to all parts of England.
At the time, England was supreme among the European nations (England, France, Spain, Italy, German, Russia et.al) However, England had numerous legal provisions and many local governments, although it lacked the consistency of a common thread. France, by comparison, through King Louis IX, allowed each province of France (like States in the USA) to have its own laws and procedures after becoming part of France. Yet France (unlike America) lacked, at the time, an overriding body of laws binding the whole.
The history of the American justice system, statutory, constitution, and decisionary , grew from the English system centuries ago.
King Henry II, sent our circuit judges to hear various civil (money and property) and criminal (violations of penal provisions subject to imprisonment) cases each year. During this process, there was a frustrating development in criminal trials. A person accused of a crime without a specific accuser, witness, or written evidence was held to a “Trial by Ordeal” if the trial judges had a subjective belief that the accused had a bad reputation. At the trial, the accused, (bound by hands/wrists and feet/ankles) was dropped into a body of water, including a river or lake. This “sink or swim” method of jurisprudence was premised on the belief that water was a pure (neutral) source that would reject any fowl or unclean substance. This method was iconic: an innocent person would sink (likely drown) while a guilty person would float (likely swim away), leaving the fate (presumed “justice”) to God as happenstance and not people.
An Alternative Precedent Laying the Groundwork for Modern Systems
Since this system determining the fate of the accused was capricious and not based on facts fairly considered by any acceptable standards, guilty persons could avoid punishment by physical (not guilty determinative actions) while innocents could perish. King Henry didn’t like the capriciousness of the “sink or swim” method of jurisprudence. By the thirteenth century the trial by a jury of twelve (later reduced in America to six unless the death penalty was involved) was eventually developed. Imagine a system awarding the guilty with an underserved continued life while punishing an innocent by death!
Submitting issues of guilt or responsibility to a trial by a jury of your peers raised the stakes of fairness and resulted in a jurisprudence that continues to be refined to this day. This trial by a jury of your peers, formerly all men but now, in America, extended to a jury of men and women, regardless of race, color, creed, or religious belief (later extended to civil (money trials) trials as well) is the hallmark of American jurisprudence.
Upholding Justice Everyday
The Gregory Law Firm handles complex civil and complex criminal litigation. From the initial interview to case completion, we remain in a trial ready mode until the case is resolved. Despite our combined legal experience of over fifty (50) years, no case is viewed as a “been there, done that” experience. Each case presents a unique fact pattern arising from your factual and personal circumstances, and includes attorneys working as a team as well as working together for your best interest. To learn more and schedule a free consultation, contact our firm online or call (904) 722-2222.