n. (context legal now historical English) Crushing, an old form of punishment (torture) in which the prisoner's body was pressed with heavy weights.
( Law French for "hard and forceful punishment") was a method of torture formerly used in the common law legal system, in which a defendant who refused to plead ("stood mute") would be subjected to having heavier and heavier stones placed upon his or her chest until a plea was entered, or the defendant died.
Many defendants charged with capital offences would refuse to plead in order to avoid forfeiture of property. If the defendant pleaded either guilty or not guilty and was executed, their heirs would inherit nothing, their property escheating to the Crown. If they refused to plead their heirs would still inherit their estate, even if they died in the process.
Usage examples of "peine forte et dure".
They hanged all the accused witches, except for that man who died under the peine forte et dure, crushed under a load of rocks when he wouldn't confess.