Anonymous asked in Entertainment & MusicMovies · 1 decade ago

John/Jane Doe?

You know when the police find a body and they don't know his identity they call him a John Doe, why is that?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    '...the "John Doe" custom dates back to the reign of England's King Edward III, during the legal debate over something called the Acts of Ejectment. This debate involved a hypothetical landowner, referred to as "John Doe," who leased land to another man, the equally fictitious "Richard Roe," who then took the land as his own and "ejected," or evicted, poor "John Doe."

    These names -- John Doe and Richard Roe -- had no particular significance, aside from "Doe" (a female deer) and "Roe" (a small species of deer found in Europe) being commonly known nouns at the time. But the debate became a hallmark of legal theory, and the name "John Doe" in particular gained wide currency in both the legal world and general usage as a generic stand-in for any unnamed person. According to Mr. Dickson, "John Doe" and "Richard Roe" are, to this day, mandated in legal procedure as the first and second names given to unknown defendants in a case (followed, if necessary, by "John Stiles" and "Richard Miles"). The name "Jane Doe," a logical female equivalent, is used in many state jurisdictions, but if the case is federal, the unnamed defendant is dubbed "Mary Major."'

  • 1 decade ago

    The name is known from the eighteenth century — the best-known early example is in Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England of 1765-69, but it is certainly older — the Oxford English Dictionary editors tell me that they’ve recently found it in a work of 1659: “To prosecute the suit, to witt John Doe And Richard Roe”. Suggestions I’ve seen that it dates back to Edward III’s reign in the fourteenth century seem wide of the mark, though.

    It was used in a rather complicated and long since obsolete legal process called an action of ejectment, which would be brought by a wrongfully dispossessed owner who was trying to get his land back. For arcane legal reasons, landowners who wanted to establish their rightful titles would use fictitious tenants in the ejectment action. In order to find whether this imaginary tenant had a right to be in possession, the court had first to establish that the supposed landlord was actually the owner, which settled the true reason for the action. This highly technical procedure was done away with in Britain by an Act of Parliament in 1852 but survives in American states.

    We know that it became standard by the time of Blackstone to use the name of John Doe for the fictitious plaintiff and Richard Roe for the equally unreal defendant in such cases. We have no idea where these names came from. However, it does seem likely that the first names were chosen from the most common personal names then in use (John as a generic name also appeared in John Company, a nickname for the East India Company; much more recently, John Q Citizen and John Q Public are American names for the man in the street, based on the same idea). The surnames were both associated with deer (a doe being a female deer, as you will remember from The Sound of Music, and roe is a European deer species), but how they came to be used isn’t known.

    These weren’t the only names. John Stiles and Richard Miles were — and still can be — used for the third and fourth participants in an action. Another, long since obsolete, was John Nokes (originally John-a-nokes, a medieval name meaning John of the oak). Jane Doe (or Jane Roe) is a much more recent introduction, for a woman whose real name is unknown or withheld for some reason; these are obvious enough extensions from their male equivalents. (The most famous example is in the abortion-rights case of Roe v Wade in 1973.) She can also be called Mary Major in American federal cases, but the origin of this is totally obscure.

    Also, Google origins of "John Doe" for more websites (although they say basically the same thing).

  • The name John Doe is typically used as a placeholder name for a male party in a legal action or legal discussion whose true identity is unknown. Male corpses or emergency room patients whose identity is unknown are also known by the name John Doe. A female who is not known is often referred to as Jane Doe. A child or baby whose identity is unknown can be referred to as Baby Doe, or in one particular case, as Precious Doe. Additional people in the same family may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc.

    The Oxford English Dictionary states that John Doe is "the name given to the fictitious lessee of the plaintiff, in the (now obsolete) mixed action of ejectment, the fictitious defendant being called Richard Roe".

    The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants. Another set of names often used for anonymous parties, particularly plaintiffs, are Richard Roe for males and Jane Roe for females

  • mark
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I might be making this up - but wasn't there a famous case where they didn't know someones name - and after years and years they turned out to be Jane Doe - and since then they've used to term Jane/John Doe.

    Apologies if I did make this up....


    Forget all of that and check this out...

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Its just a name..they had to name the bodies something....They can't go around calling it IT

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