In early legal practice, one of several character witnesses produced by someone accused of a crime or by a defendant in a civil suit to attest, in court, that he or she believed the defendant on his or her oath.
The process of compurgation, called wager of law in England, was a type of absolution from a criminal or civil charge that enabled the defendant to come forward and swear to his or her innocence or nonliability. Through compurgation, the person on trial was able to conclusively contradict the charges and reinforce his or her position through others who testified under oath that they believed the defendant's testimony.
The use of character witnesses in a lawsuit by a party is derived from the old practice of summoning compurgators to buttress one's case.
"Compurgator." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/compurgator
"Compurgator." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/compurgator
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"compurgator." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/compurgator
"compurgator." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/compurgator