Jury of Matrons Law and Legal Definition

The Jury of Matrons was a form of special jury of experienced women at English common law, generally used to determine the question of pregnancy when set up in bar of execution, and for other equivalent purposes. This group of women is especially impaneled as a jury in two cases:

(1) Upon a writ de ventre inspiciendo (writ for establishing a presumptive heir); and

(2) Where a female prisoner is condemned to be executed, and pleads pregnancy as a ground for postponing execution until after her confinement (the writ for the summoning of a jury).

These writs give occasion to a proceeding at common law, where a widow is suspected to feign herself with child, in order to exclude the next heir, and a supposititious birth is expected, then, upon the writ de ventre inspiciendo, a jury of women is to be impanneled to try the question, whether with child or not. So when a woman was sentenced to death, and she declared herself to be quick with child, a jury of matrons is impanneled to try whether she be or be not with child.