The nuances of this difference in interpretation--and the important role played by infirmity to contextualise suicide--elucidate the responses of the Crown to the families and executors who petitioned for the return of infirm suicides' confiscated goods and chattels.
Family members and executors occasionally petitioned the Crown for return of the confiscated goods and chattels of a person whose death had been judged Jelonia de se.
Though Murray argues that, in practice, English legal records tend not to adhere to Bracton's theory on suicide, (46) in fact the Crown's responses to petitions for the return of confiscated goods and chattels support the leniency provided by Bracton for those who slay themselves in bodily pain or under high fever, regardless of whether or not they are 'deranged' or 'delirious'.
The original petitions by surviving family members and executors seem to have presented explanations of suffering to justify the return of goods and chattels. Though they did not overturn felonia de se verdicts, the responses of the Crown are notable because they include information explaining the actions of the deceased that led to that persons death, as well as information about the persons seeking restoration of chattels.
The Crown then instructed the Sheriff or Coroner to gather further evidence on the case so that the Crown could decide whether or not to grant release of the goods and chattels to the petitioner.
Robert de Dekeston's goods and chattels, as well as a messuage with appurtenances (47) belonging to him in Hereford had been confiscated by the Hereford Coroner after Robert drowned himself.
A response by the Crown to a petition for the return of goods and chattels of suicide Nicholas Prat, sent in 1293 to the Sheriff of Cambridge, uses techniques similar to the two cases above.
Additional writs composed during the reign of Edward I use infirmity to mitigate the consequences of suicide in order to restore goods and chattels to suicides' family members, further indicating the particular appropriateness of infirmity for legal discourse on suicide.
The first writ is an order sent in 1284 from the Crown to the Sheriff of Lancaster, ordering the Sheriff to deliver the goods and chattels of William, son of Robert de Dokesbury, to his wife Emma.
Similarly, in 1286 the Crown sent a writ to the Sheriff and Coroners of Berkshire ordering the return of confiscated goods and chattels of Robert de Derby to his wife Dionisia.
It seems that a ruling had been made on the suicide of Nicholas, son of John de Rughford, at the Lancashire Eyre and that afterward a plea (now lost) was entered by Nicholas's wife Emma requesting the return of Nicholas's goods and chattels. The extant writ is the response that was then sent from the Crown to the Justices in Eyre, while the Eyre was still underway, so that Nicholas's goods and chattels could be returned to his wife Emma with immediate effect.
(69) However, madness does not act here as a mitigating explanation for the Crown's release of goods and chattels. Unlike the previous cases, there is no detail of infirmity beyond 'fit of madness', no clarification of the duration, severity, or any contributory afflictions (such as fever) that may have aggravated the madness.