Word of the Week: Reprieve

Reprieve is a verb, but can also be used as a noun, reprieve. Reprieve in the verb form was first used in 1596, and was defined as to postpone the punishment of a convicted criminal. While reprieve as a noun was first documented in 1552, and was defined as the formal temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence especially of death. It is possible that the word reprieve is derived from the Ango-French repri-, which is the stem of the word reprendre (to take back). 

The word reprieve is common jargon among the court. Although similar to a pardon, the power to reprieve is only temporary and does not reduce or commute the criminal’s sentence. In legal terms, reprieve is a type of clemency that postpones the punishment of a criminal sentence. Usually to reprieve a conviction is a positive event. When a defendant receives a reprieve, it allows their legal team more time to file a pardon petition. 

Postponement, defer

The criminal was reprieved because her legal team found new evidence that they could present to the jury. 

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