The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

The fifth question of the doctor, whether it stand with conscience to prohibit a jury of meat and drink till they be agreed

Doct. If one of the twelve men of an inquest know the very truth of his own knowledge, and instructeth his fellows thereof, and they will in no wise give credence to him, and thereupon, because meat and drink is prohibited them, he is driven to that point, that either he must assent to them, and give their verdict against his own knowledge and against his own conscience, or die for lack of meat: how may the law then stand with conscience, that will drive an innocent to that extremity, to be either forsworn, or to be famished and die for want of meat?

Stud. I take not the law of the realm to be, that the jury after they be sworn may not eat nor drink till they be agreed, of the verdict: but truth it is, there is a maxim and an old custom in the law, that they shall not eat nor drink after they be sworn, till they have given their verdict, without the assent and license of the justices. And that is ordained by the law for eschewing of divers inconveniences that might follow thereupon, and that specially if they should eat or drink at. the costs of the parties; and therefore if they do contrary, it may be laid in an arrest of the judgment: but with the assent of the justices they may both eat and drink. As if any of the jurors fall sick before they be agreed of their verdict, so sore that he may not commune of the verdict, then by the assent of the justices he may have meat and drink, and also such other things as be necessary for him: and his fellows also at their own costs, or at the indifferent costs of the parties, if they so agree, or by the assent of the justices, may both eat and drink. And, therefore if the case happen that thou now speakest of, and that the jury can in no wise agree in their verdict, and that appeareth to the justices by examination, the justices may in that case suffer them to have both meat and drink for a time, to see whether they will agree: and if they will in no wise agree, I think that the justices may set such order in the matter as shall seem to them by their discretion to stand with reason and conscience, by awarding of a new inquest, and by setting fine upon them that they shall find in default, or otherwise as they shall think best by their discretion; like as they may do if one of the jury die before verdict, or if any other like casualties fall in that behalf. But what the justices ought to do in that case that thou hast put, in their discretion, I will not treat of at this time.