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Does Trial by Combat Exist in the Modern World?

Trial by combat, a medieval practice, has no legal standing in today's courts. However, its echoes persist in certain legal systems, inviting us to explore how ancient traditions shape modern justice. What remnants of this bygone era can we still recognize today?

Fans of Game of Thrones and other knightly epics will probably love learning this little-known fact: The United States technically allows trial by combat. For those not into medieval lore, such a trial involves two parties -- one who claims injury and one who allegedly caused it -- who meet on a field of battle with weapons and face off. In what was essentially a judicially-sanctioned duel, the winner was declared to be in the right.

Although trial by combat has never officially been abolished in the United States, it isn't used as a method to settle disputes. However, that's not to say that a few creative-thinking individuals haven't tried. According to criminal defense attorney Jason Swindle, a man in Kansas requested a trial by combat as recently as 2020. Writing in Georgia's Newnan Times-Herald, Swindle said he was mostly glad such trials no longer exist. "But, when I hear about all of the personal insults, extremely rude and arrogant behavior, and blistering attacks made by politicians (and other people) against one another and third parties, I wonder if some of these folks would sharpen their manners if they lived in the 1800s," he wrote.

It's the law...really:

  • It's illegal to whisper in church in Rehoboth, Delaware, where doing so is considered a breach of peaceful worship.

  • Chicken must be finger-licking good in Gainesville, Georgia, where it is illegal to eat it with a knife and fork.

  • Anyone riding a horse under the influence of alcohol can be arrested in Colorado.

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Discussion Comments


I like that his name is Swindle. It's odd how many times the names fit the news they're a part of, or the profession they chose.

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    • Although rarely requested and never granted, trial by combat is not explicitly banned in the United States.
      Although rarely requested and never granted, trial by combat is not explicitly banned in the United States.