The Ancient Library

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On this page: Judicial Procedure (continued)



magistrate to the decision of the comitia centuriata as a court of appeal. Con­demned persons, as a rule, naturally made use of this right, and the magistrates con­sequently brought their verdict before the comitia centuriata, in the form of a charge with reasons to support it. Thus these comitia acquired a jurisdiction, dependent, it is true, on a previous judgment of the magistrates, and limited to capital cases which admitted of appeal. The jurisdiction of the comitia trfbuta was developed in the same way. At first these comitia had merely served as a court of appeal against the fines imposed by the tribunes for viola­tion of their authority. (See multa.) But they soon acquired jurisdiction in all cases involving fines, and quite overshadowed the comitia centuriata in importance. The judicial power of the latter was gradually more and more restricted by the increasing habit of referring cases of common offences to exceptional commissions (qucestiones ex-traordinarlce. At last trials for per-duellio were the only ones in which they retained their judicial competence. But the greatest possible number of cases were brought before the comitia tributa, notably those of a political character in which illegal or mischievous administration was in question. Only the name of perduellio was avoided. The distinction between the judicial competence of the two assemblies was founded, not so much on differences in the offences, as in those of the penalties. Whether the comitia centuriata or comitia tributa were to take cognisance of an offence depended on the light in which the magistrates regarded it. If they thought less seriously of it, it would go before the comitia tributa, which had only the power of inflicting fines to the amount of half the property: if more seriously, before the comitia centuriata, which could only pass capital sentences : in early times death, in ' later times the interdicfta dquce et ignis, and the confiscation of property which ac­companied them. (See exilium.)

The proceedings in the assembly were opened by the accusing magistrate. In the comitia centuriata this would be a consul or prsetor, in the comitia tributa a tribune, sedile, or quaestor. The trial began with the diei dictlQ, or fixing of a day for the proceedings. The accused was then either put into prison, or left free on giving bail for his appearance. To give the people some means of arriving at a conclusion on the guilt or innocence of the accused, a

preliminary investigation was held in three contlones at intervals of some days. Before these the accused was allowed to defend himself against the charge of the magistrate. At the last contio the magistrate pronounced a provisional verdict, which (if adverse) was taken as a definite charge. At the same time he fixed the day for the meeting of the comitia, always allowing an interval of thirty days. At the meeting of the comitia, supposing nothing had occurred to stop the proceedings—i.e. supposing the accused had gone into voluntary exile, or a tribune had interposed his veto, or the accuser had withdrawn the charge—the accuser made his proposal (rogdtio) to punish the accused. Thereupon the accused (or his advocate) spoke in his defence, the evidence of the witnesses who had been previously called was shortly gone through, and the proofs laid before the assembly. Finally the votes were taken in the usual manner, and the result at once made known. A pro-S3cution which remained unfinished at the expiration of the appointed time was not continued, but the accused was regarded as acquitted. The condemnation of the accused was followed by the immediate infliction of the penalty. The sentence could only be reversed by a subsequent resolution of the people. (See restitutio.) The popular tribunals fell gradually into disuse : the standing judicial courts or qucEstiones arose, the first of which was instituted in b.c. 149. In Cicero's time there were eight of these commissions, each presided over by a praetor or his represen­tative. These courts were respectively appointed to try the following offences: (1) RSpetundas, or official extortion; (2) Mdiestas, or treason against the majesty of the State; (3) PlciUdtus, or embezzle­ment ; (4) Ambitus, or attempt to gain office by unlawful means; (5) Vis, or violence; (6) De Slcarlls, or murder; (7) Adul-terium, or adultery; (8) Falsum, or forgery. (See ambitus, maiestas, peculatus, repe-tund^e, Vis.) Any citizen, not an official, might bring the charge. On the proceed­ings, see qu^estio.

The comitia tributa were, after this, only set in motion in cases for which there was no quaistio perpetua, or for which it was thought improper to institute a qucestio extraordlndma. The popular tribunals of the comitia came to an end with the Re­public, but the quaistiones continued until the 2nd century a.d, to act as the regular criminal courts. Under the Empire the

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