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Torture or the 'question'.


THE QUESTION OR TORTURE, [...] is a practice used at times in important criminal cases in order to have the accused confess to the crime of which he is accused, or to have him reveal his accomplices.

This practice consists in inflicting fierce suffering on the accused, that ordinarily cannot in itself cause his death.

This form of torture is called the question, because suffering is inflicted on the accused, while he is questioned on his crime & his accomplices, if he is suspected to have any. [...]

The call for the question, requires that the nature of the crime merit the death penalty, & that proof be substantial. One piece of evidence alone will not suffice, nor the testimony of a sole witness, if it is not accompanied by other evidence. [...]

It is possible, with a sentence of death, to ordain that the condemned be first subjected to the question, in order for him to reveal his accomplices; this is what is known as the preliminary question.

It is solely for the royal courts to ordain that the accused be brought forward for the question without it being applied; this is a form of grace granted to minors, the weakened elderly, the ill & the invalid, who cannot be subjected to the question without it being life-threatening; the accused is subjected to the question in order to extract the truth from him under fear of pain.

Big women [with child] cannot be subjected to nor brought forward for the question, but we do not rely on their declarations; they are examined.

Sentences of condemnation to the question cannot be carried out if not confirmed by a judgment prior to the question.

The accused must be interrogated after having sworn an oath.

The question is conducted in the presence of the commissioners, & a court transcript must be filed on the nature of the [question, & the responses, confessions, denials & deviations under each article of the interrogation.

The commissioners may diminish & relent on some of the rigors of the question, if the accused confesses his crime, & if he wavers, subject him to the same rigors; but once he has been unbound, & totally removed from the question seat, he cannot be subjected to it anew.

The accused having been removed from the question seat must once more be interrogated on his declarations & on the facts confessed or denied by him.

Whatever new proof is brought forward, the accused cannot be subjected a second time to the question for a same fact.

All judges, royal or subordinate, may condemn to the question, with the exception of ecclesiastical judges, although some authorities have stated the opposite.

The preparatory question is that which is ordained prior to the definitive judgment; powerful pieces of evidence are required in order to call for the preparatory question; the final question is that to which the condemned is subjected prior to execution in order to have him reveal his accomplices.

This death sentence prescribes that the condemned be first subjected to the question in the ordinary and extraordinary ways.

The ordinary question in Paris, is carried out using six jugs of water & a small rack; and the extraordinary question, with six more jugs of water & a large rack, that constricts & stretches the criminal all the more.

It is carried out elsewhere using wedges & the boot; this form of torture, is also used in Paris when the accused has been condemned to die.

In some areas, such as in the Netherlands, torture consists of putting the feet on coals.

In the north, the accused is buried in mud.

In England, torture is unknown. [...]

, tome XIII, page 703.

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