The result is the "monstrous" blending of the tragic and the comic—tragicomedy—in which desire disengages honor and love from the rhetoric of presence. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
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For example, a man could open a case as the legal guardian or agent of his wounded wife or child. According to the strict interpretation of criminal law, widows were the only women eligible to begin lawsuits, civil or criminal. In other words, the patterns of honor and the duel continued to play out during the course of the criminal investigation. Like the duel, the criminal investigation em- honor and the law 77 bodied a collection of public rituals dedicated to disputing truth and reputation. In the duel the posturing that occurred before combat was more important than the actual physical violence, since it was through this process that participants ascribed meaning to the dispute.
Thus, in criminal cases, as in the duel, if there was any confusion over who the injured party was and who the accuser was it needed to be sorted out before the process could begin. If only one was wounded, one should assume that the other 78 honor and the law was at fault. They also often agreed that the suspect was to blame, forcefully disparaging the character of the suspect.
When the justicia began an investigation against Juan Serrano in , for example, about a confrontation that occurred in the church cemetery between Serrano and Lic. This kind of hearsay evidence about the character of the accused, inadmissible in modern courts, was standard for Castilian law, especially since the actual facts of the case, who said and did what, often occurred in full view of the public and were not really in dispute.
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In Juan Anaya Majano accused Lic. When questioned, some of the witnesses argued that it was a quarrel of no consequence and that the alleged insult never occurred. The publicity of the investigations helped the criminal proceedings in furthering the goals of the disputants: to defend their reputations and disparage their opponents. One can imagine that the witnesses, who were not sworn to secrecy, would have repeated publicly what they told the justicia. The apartamiento and the fee de amistades were more formal and more common ways for opponents to reconcile, and to do so within the structure of legal proceedings.
An apartamiento, literally meaning separation or disengagement, was an action by which someone 82 honor and the law formally withdrew from a lawsuit. We should not forget, however, that coercing the victim of an attack to grant an apartamiento could also be a way for the accused to underline the powerlessness of his or her opponent and intensify the humiliation. Others cited prior relationships or other mitigating circumstances that led to their private pardons.
When a victim was wounded in an assault, the surgeon would give his opinion as to what type of weapon caused the injury. The purpose of this consultation was to ascertain whether the injury was caused in the manner that the injured person claimed, which was important because suspects sometimes would admit that they had fought with the victim but insist that they had never harmed the wounded person, and that the alleged victim received his or her injuries in some other manner.
There is no way of knowing how many cases the alcaldes failed to remit, either because of negligence, because of a desire to protect friends as other investigations into their behavior allege , or because they deemed the case inconsequential. Judges did not presume suspects to be innocent, there was no legally required form that a criminal investigation had to take, and there was no guaranteed right to appeal.
Moreover, when sentencing, judges did not cite an individual crime for which the suspect had been found guilty, and there were no clear sentencing guides that judges had to follow. The judge in Toledo used his arbitrary power to ensure that the vast majority of those who were sent to him did not undergo a complete trial but were instead given a summary sentence. There was still a role for the participants to play once the paperwork and the suspect reached Toledo.
The accused was presented with the story of the confrontation as his or her opponents and the witnesses had told it and was asked under oath whether that narrative was true. Often, to challenge the statements their opponents made, suspects provided an alternative version of the events.
In Catalina Ruiz complained to the justicia that when she went to collect a debt from the wife of Juan de Sevilla de Bernaldo, he beat her about the head in response, even though his wife asked him to stop. Sometimes the accused tried to cast the entire criminal case as a misunderstanding. Also, as with the rhetoric of honor out of court, reputation was at stake, and defendants frequently attacked the character of their accusers, just as Sevilla de Bernaldo did to Catalina Ruiz.
But if a suspect had said something insulting about his or her accuser publicly so that many people knew of it, then retracted it in the Toledo jail, it could have been interpreted as a humiliating retreat. Why would a suspect admit guilt? Setting aside any consideration of conscience, we must take the coercive nature of the criminal process into account.
Those who had received a private pardon from their opponents, releasing them from the possibility of corporal punishment, often took this route as well. Instead, they received the same moderate punishment as those who confessed, only after spending more time in jail. There was often either a pledge of reconciliation or a private pardon from the aggrieved party, or both, all of which would urge leniency for the suspect.
Even the law manuals advised discretion and not too much rigor. Self-defense was also an excuse for leniency, as were other special circumstances including the suspect having found his wife, daughter, or sister with a man.
In most of these cases, it is unclear why this was so. Cases that were unimportant included those in which threats were made and words exchanged but no physical violence was committed, especially when the opponents reconciled on their own. Other witnesses claimed that there was no 92 honor and the law dagger involved and they were separated before any combat broke out.
Further, the two opponents claimed now to be friends. The last step in the judicial process was, for a very few cases, a formal trial. In addition, all the witnesses who gave testimony during the investigation had their depositions read back to them and were asked under oath to ratify what they had said earlier. This last stage of the criminal judicial process was the only part of the case in which the accuser and accused could debate the merits of their case before the judge on anything like an equal basis, and it could last for days or weeks.
For this reason, suspects appointed their own lawyer. In this case, Nieto was eventually honor and the law 95 found not guilty and released, so perhaps he requested the trial to clear his name.
It may be that he asked for a trial rather than consent to a summary sentence, which might have been severe given that he stood accused of assaulting a constable. The adversarial nature of the trial, its dependence on the testimony of members of the community for almost all of its evidence, and the focus of that testimony on the reputations of the disputants are qualities that resonated throughout the entire criminal process.
Neither the authorities nor the disputants could act alone, without reference to each other, after the investigation began.
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Criminal cases, like civil cases, could be appealed to the royal chancery. Third, the convict had to receive a private pardon from the aggrieved party. In the cases that eventually led to Good Friday Pardons, private pardons normally came with conditions such as the payment of money and voluntary exile from the location where the crime occurred. The reasons given were usually that the act had been committed in self-defense or that the victim had acted in an outrageously provocative manner.
Service to the king, usually as a soldier, was also cited sometimes, as was the social status of the convict. Pardon seekers contrasted their characters favorably with those of their victims, and they also evoked the existence of dependent children and other family members as an extenuating circumstance. Royal pardons represented a merciful act by the king—just the kind of dramatic act portrayed in the honor plays. But the recipients of actual Good Friday Pardons received a complete legal vindication for their acts, unlike the ambiguous rulings of the kings on stage, and of course they received them from the royal bureaucracy instead of from the mouth of the king himself.
One question remains: how unique was this process to Spain? Was it just the Castilian criminal system that allowed for such manipulation by its subjects, or did this relationship between judges and judged exist elsewhere in early modern Europe? Clearly, throughout Europe witnesses and the accused tried to sway judges with their own version of events, as Natalie Zemon Davis has shown for sixteenth-century France.
Daniel Smail has detailed how the residents of late medieval Marseille used civil courts to achieve private vengeance against their enemies, and Laura Gowing has found women doing the same thing with church courts in early modern London, manipulating court proceedings with their testimony. Sharpe has found in early modern England. The idea that public justice could accomplish private vengeance was not unique to the jurists of Golden Age Castile. Paul Hyams argues that in early medieval England, law did not replace the private vengeance of feuding; rather, they were two sides of the same coin.
It was often a sensible way of going about it. That my honor is subject to another, and that oh, treacherous, unjust law! My fame has been honorable— is it an accomplice to evil and not to good? Honor which is born mine, now a slave to another? Not that. What barbarous world consents to this infamous rite?
Where there is no blame, there is a crime? Where another is delinquent, for his insulting malice, they give the punishment to me! Of all those whom the world notices as unhappy—ay me!