coroner (kor- orkahr-[schwa]-n[schwa]r).

1. A public official whose duty is to investigate the causes and circumstances of any death that occurs suddenly, suspiciously, or violently. See MEDICAL EXAMINER. [Cases: Coroners

1. C.J.S. Coroners and Medical Examiners § 2.]

2. Hist. A royal official with countywide jurisdiction to investigate deaths, to hold inquests, and to assume the duties of the sheriff if need be. • The coroner acted as a check on the sheriff, a local officer whose growing power threatened royal control over the counties. The coroner reported criminal activity to the king’s justices in eyre. When the eyre court arrived in a county, it collected the coroner’s roll to learn what had occurred in the county during the eyre’s absence. The justices fined the coroner if he failed to produce the roll, or if they learned of criminal activity in the county from a source other than the roll.

“The office of coroner was established in September 1194, when the justices in eyre were required to see that three knights and one clerk were elected in every county as ‘keepers of the pleas of the crown.’ These were the first county coroners…. Throughout the Middle Ages the coroner could be ordered to perform almost any duty of an administrative or inquisitorial nature within his bailiwick, either alone or with the sheriff, but there were other duties which belonged more specifically to his office and which he performed without being ordered. These consisted of holding inquests upon dead bodies, receiving adjurations of the realm made by felons in sanctuary, hearing appeals, confessions of felons and appeals of approvers, and attending and sometimes organising exactions and outlawries promulgated in the county court. These were the ‘crown pleas’ which the coroner had to ‘keep’….” R.F. Hunnisett, The Medieval Coroner 1 (1961).

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