All’s Well That End’s Well

(Part II, and the exciting conclusion to Hanna’s research in Pamplona, Spain.)

The first trial I studied is a 1562 case in which Catalina Perez claimed Juan Alvarez committedmedio homicidio against her. Juan was not known in the town of Eulate for his good reputation, having already impregnated a woman who was not his wife, embezzled money from his employer, and slandered and attacked a man in the town square before ever having conflict with Catalina. The origins of Juan’s conflict with Catalina began when one day, at a local well, Juan approached the young woman, soliciting her for sex. Angered by her rejection, Juan attempted unsuccessfully to push Catalina down the well. Still bitter by her refusal to sleep with him, Juan Alvarez’s ultimate revenge came when, according to witness testimony, he arrived at Catalina’s house after church one morning and proceeded to beat her up in front of her family. Knocking her to the ground and kicking her while she was down, Catalina suffered serious wounds as her family watched with horror. Due to the severity of the crime and his notorious past, Juan was sentenced to four years of exile to begin six days from the end of the trial. A farm owner, Juan requested a month’s extension before beginning his exile in order to find workers to tend to his property. The trial ends with a cliffhanger when Juan, having been granted the extension, files an appeal, stating that he has information against Catalina.

The second trial I reviewed is a 1583 case between Juan Dominguez and Doña Bernardina that took place in Monteagudo. The case testimonies reveal that Juan Dominguez, having been incarcerated as punishment for committing slander, was in jail when a group of women, including Bernardina, attacked him, hitting him with stones on his head. Taking Bernardina to court formedio homicidio, Juan Dominguez sent a substitute to the trial, Don Baltasar de Beaumontt. The bulk of the trial reveals the correspondence between Bernardina’s legal adviser, Esteban de Murillo and Simon de Aragon, Juan’s lawyer. In these folios, Esteban claims that Juan has no case and all charges should be dropped to which, Simon responds that the legal proceedings will continue. In the end, Bernardina is charged with medio homicidio.

The third and final trial I studied, to my surprise, was found to have a direct connection with Bernardina and Juan’s case. Doña Bernardina, unhappy with the results of the trial, appealed the case. The basis for her appeal is that she felt that Juan Dominguez should not have been allowed to have a substitute, claiming that the injuries he incurred were not that severe. In 1722, the appeal was still being debated, with Domingo Benito representing Bernardina and Miguel Martinez representing Juan Dominguez. The case, repetitive and dense, reviews the laws of Monteagudo concerning “half homicide” and whether Don Baltasar de Beaumontt should have been allowed to substitute for Juan in the 1583 trial. Over a century later, the court continued to side with Juan Dominguez, stating that the statues of Monteagudo dictate that in all cases ofmedio homicidio the prosecutor is entitled to a substitute, no matter the severity of prosecutor’s physical condition.

From these trials, I found new information about medio homicidio to add to my findings from March 2010. First of all, I learned from the first trial that “half homicide” not only resulted in economical fines, but could also result in exile if the crime was particularly violent. Additionally, I found that convicts could request extra time before starting their court-mandated exile and these requests were not always denied. From the first two trials, it can possibly be induced that gender did not make an impact on the verdict of a case. This means, that just because a man was accusing a woman, doesn’t mean  that she would automatically get convicted, and just because a woman was accusing a man, doesn’t mean that he would be acquitted. Finally, my research during this trip to Pamplona revealed just how long an appeal could continue to be in the courts, evidenced by the 136 years that had elapsed between my second and third trials.

The research I have conducted on medio homicidio over the last two years, however, is only the beginning. Hundreds of cases have yet been unread, cases that may further our understanding of the early modern Spanish secular legal system.


Hanna Langstein, class of 2012, recently graduated from the college with a BA in history. During her time at William & Mary, Hanna has completed two independent studies where she was able to do research abroad in Pamplona Spain, first in March 2010 and again in January 2012. Both of these research projects focused on medio homicidio (“half homicide”), a type of crime common in early modern Spain. Hanna is currently in her graduate year in the Secondary Social Studies Education program at the W&M School of Education and will receive her masters in education in May 2013.

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