forte et dure.
A species of torture applied to contumacious felons. In the reign of Henry
IV. the accused was pressed to death by weights; in later reigns the
practice prevailed of tying the thumbs tightly together with whipcord, to
induce the accused to plead. The following persons were pressed to death by
weights:óJuliana Quick, in 1442; Anthony Arrowsmith,
1598; Walter Calverly, in 1605; Major Strangways, in 1657; and even in 1741
a person was pressed to death at the Cambridge assizes. Abolished 1772.
Salem Witch Trials
After his arrest, Giles Corey remained in jail with his wife until his trial on September 16, 1692. He went to the trial and plead "not guilty" but simultaneously refused to "put himself on the court" because of his contempt for the court. Giles Corey was not willing to submit himself to the jurisdiction of a court that had already determined his guilt. Because the court had believed the testimony of the same accusers in a trial on September 9, Giles understood that there was no chance of being found not guilty and that a conviction would be inevitable. In every previous trial when an accused individual had plead not guilty, not a single person was cleared so Giles preferred to undergo "what Death they would put him to" rather than be found guilty of witchcraft and thus put to death. According to Blackstone's three tenets, Giles was ruled as "standing mute" because he would not be tried by "God and my country." The Court of Oyer and Terminer strictly adhered to the requirement that a defendant "put himself on the country". Because Giles stood mute, he was given the dreaded sentence of peine forte et dure even though it had been determined to be illegal by the government of Massachusetts. It was illegal for two reasons: there was no law permitting pressing, and it violated the provisions of the Body of Liberties regarding the end of cruel punishments. In the entire history of the United States, Giles Corey is the only person ever to be pressed to death by order of a court.