The Law Dictionary

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INQUEST Definition & Legal Meaning

Definition & Citations:

1. A body of men appointed by law to inquire into certain matters. The grand jury is sometimes called the “grand inquest.” 2. The judicial inquiry made by a jury summoned for the purpose is called an “in- quest.” The finding of such men, upon an investigation, is also called an “inquest.” People v. Coombs, 36 App. Div. 284, 55 N. Y. Supp. 276; Davis v. Bibb County, 116 Ga. 23, 42 S. E. 403. 3. The inquiry by a coroner, termed a “coroner’s inquest,” into the maimer of the death of any one who has been slain, or has died suddenly or in prison. 4. This name is also given to a species of proceeding under the New York practice, allowable where the defendant in a civil action has not filed an affidavit of merits nor verified his answer. In such case the issue may be taken up, out of its regular order, on plaintiff’s motion, and tried without the admission of any affirmative defense. An inquest is a trial of an issue of fact where the plaintiff alone introduces testimony. The defendant is entitled to appear at the taking of the inquest, and to cross-examine the plaintiff’s witnesses; and, if he do appear, the inquest must be taken before a jury, uuless a jury be expressly waived by him. Haines v. Davis, 6 How. Prac. (N. Y.) 118.


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