14 October 2019

BOOK: Elizabeth P. KAMALI, Felony and the Guilty Mind in Medieval England [Studies in Legal History] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

(Source: CUP)

Cambridge University Press has published a new book on the role of mens rea during the first two centuries of the English criminal trial jury.


This book explores the role of mens rea, broadly defined as a factor in jury assessments of guilt and innocence from the early thirteenth through the fourteenth century - the first two centuries of the English criminal trial jury. Drawing upon evidence from the plea rolls, but also relying heavily upon non-legal textual sources such as popular literature and guides for confessors, Elizabeth Papp Kamali argues that issues of mind were central to jurors' determinations of whether a particular defendant should be convicted, pardoned, or acquitted outright. Demonstrating that the word 'felony' itself connoted a guilty state of mind, she explores the interplay between social conceptions of guilt and innocence and jury behavior. Furthermore, she reveals a medieval understanding of felony that involved, in its paradigmatic form, three essential elements: an act that was reasoned, was willed in a way not constrained by necessity, and was evil or wicked in its essence.


Elizabeth Papp KamaliHarvard Law School, Massachusetts
Elizabeth Papp Kamali is Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Massachusetts.


List of figures
List of abbreviations
The history of Mens Rea
The trial jury and its predecessors: Anglo-Saxon and Angevin Antecedents
A brief chapter summary
The essentials of medieval English felony procedure
Part I. Felonia Felonice Facta: Felony and Intentionality:
1. The meaning of felony
1.1 Felonia Felonice Facta and the question of non-felonious felonies
1.2 The etymology of felony
2. Felony in the archives
2.1 Words of felony in law and literature
2.2 Accomplice liability and the nexus between actus reus and mens rea
2.3. A felonious state of mind
2.4 Conclusion to Part I
Part II. Þe Deuylys Doghtyr of Hellë Fyre: Felony and Emotion:
3. The language of anger
3.1 An elite emotional episode: the Warenne-Zouche Incident
3.2 The history of law and emotion
3.3 The language of anger
3.4 Anger and the common law: an overview
3.5 Passion in the plea rolls
3.6 Melancholic felony in Gower's Tale of Canace and Machaire
4. Cultural understandings of anger
4.1 Anger and the judgment day
4.2 Positive manifestations of the passion
4.3 Anger in the confessional
4.4. Slights, affronts, and provocations
4.5 Anger, provocation, and the medieval English jury
4.6 Conclusion to Part II
Part III. Handlyng Synne: Guilt and Innocence:
5. Confession and circumstantial inquiry
5.1 Confessions of a horse thief
5.2 A confessing society
5.3 Inquiry into the circumstances
5.4 The role of confession in felony adjudication
6. Guilt assessment in medieval England
6.1 Handlyng Synne and crime
6.2 Sins of thought, speech, deed
6.3 Rankings of sins and crimes
6.4 Conclusion to Part III
Part IV. Dies Iræ: Judge and Jury:
7. Tales of judging
7.1 The perils and prosaic nature of judging
7.2 Pontius Pilate and deference to jury verdicts
7.3 The misjudging of Christ and its resonance
8. The mind and comportment of judge and jury
8.1 Erkenwald and the Pagan judge
8.2 Harsh justice tempered by mercy
8.3 The proper comportment of those who judge
8.4 Judicial states of mind
8.5 Conclusion to Part IV
Looking back
Looking forward
Legal literacy and the medieval English jury

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