Left-overs from my historical-biography novel research.
The year, 1637: Poor John Briant, lies there crumpled in the dirt, bleeding with cuts and scratches. His body has become a broken bulk. Poor, poor John is now quite dead.
Who shall pay?
The place, Mattanient, Maryland: A jury of twelve men upon their oath swore a falling tree had killed John. Therefore the tree must pay.
Deodand is a thing that has caused a death and must be offered to God.
The sacrificing of inanimate killers of humans, probably steeped in superstition, dates back to at least the 1200s. English Common Law continued on in pre-colonial Maryland, including this ancient statute of deodand. Inanimate killers of humans, or their worth, must be handed over to the authorities.
Sir William Blackstone, an English Jurist in the eighteenth century who was noted for his commentaries on English Law, questioned how much of the object must be sacrificed.
For example: If a person is crushed by a wagon wheel, is only the wheel given up or does the law of deodand require the whole wagon? If it is the whole wagon, what about the horse? What about the objects within the wagon?
The courts finally abolished the ancient English statute of deodand in 1846. I had never heard of this most unusual practice, but I love obscure or ancient words. What do you think about this little piece of trivia? Have you heard of deodand before this? Please, leave me a comment below.