You know on Game of Thrones how you can prove your innocence by single combat, perhaps even with a stand-in who agrees to fight for you? And we all laugh and say, "Oh, what a barbaric and ridiculous custom. If that has any basis in reality [hint: yesterday's post already proves that it does], it must have ended many centuries ago, before people understood the complex notion of a trial by jury, with evidence."
Hate to break it to you, Internet, but this was legal in England until 1819. 1817 is one of, if not the, last year with an example of this occurring, and is probably the reason why the law was finally abolished. I grant you, it had fallen so far out of fashion that no one really considered it a thing anymore, but it was still lurking around in the books and therefore was permissible in a court of law.
According to Gentleman's Blood, page 10, there was a gentleman named Abraham Thornton who met a girl at a dance. He walked her home and they slept together (though he was accused but not convicted of rape–who knows what really happened?). The next day her body was discovered drowned. He was tried by a jury, but there wasn't enough evidence to convict him, so he was acquitted. The girl's brother launched an appeal, and when Thornton was re-arrested, he demanded his right to prove his innocence by combat.
"Nobody could be found to fight with him, though, so the case was closed".
Well, THAT'S one way to keep court costs down.
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