Nihil detur vel capiatur de cetero pro brevi inquisitionis de vita vel membris, sed gratis concedatur et non negetur.
Nothing is to be given or taken in future for a writ for an inquest concerning life or members, but it is to be given without payment and not denied.
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.
In the late twelfth century jury trial began to replace trial by ordeal as the principal method of proof in the king’s courts in criminal cases. The process whereby accusations of serious crimes, for which conviction might result in hanging or mutilation, were decided by juries’ verdicts was a slow and uneven one, however, and took time to become settled. The most important agency in this development was the writde odio et atia(`of hatred and spite’), which was ostensibly intended to discover whether an accusation had been made maliciously, but which was often used to decide simply whether an accused man or woman was guilty or not. This writ may not have been precisely identical with the `writ of life or members’ referred to by Magna Carta, but it often served the same purpose. Writs of this kind could be expensive, and might even be refused altogether. Clause 36 was intended to bring order into the process of securing jury trial for those who wanted it, and seems to have been largely successful.