What is Inquest?

Legal Definition
An inquest is a judicial inquiry in common law jurisdictions, particularly one held to determine the cause of a person's death. Conducted by a judge, jury, or government official, an inquest may or may not require an autopsy carried out by a coroner or medical examiner. Generally, inquests are only conducted when deaths are sudden or unexplained. An inquest may be called at the behest of a coroner, judge, prosecutor, or, in some jurisdictions, upon a formal request from the public. A coroner's jury may be convened to assist in this type of proceeding. Inquest can also mean such a jury and the result of such an investigation. In general usage, inquest is also used to mean any investigation or inquiry.

An inquest uses witnesses, but suspects are not permitted to defend themselves. The verdict can be, for example, natural death, accidental death, misadventure, suicide, or murder. If the verdict is murder or culpable accident, criminal prosecution may follow, and suspects are able to defend themselves there.

Since juries are not used in most European civil law systems, these do not have any (jury) procedure similar to an inquest, but medical evidence and professional witnesses have been used in court in continental Europe for centuries.

Larger inquests can be held into disasters, or in some jurisdictions (not England and Wales) into cases of corruption.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A body of men appointed by law to inquire into certain matters; as, the inquest examined into the facts connected with the alleged murder; the grand jury, is sometimes called the grand inquest. The judicial inquiry itself is also called an inquest. The finding of such men, upon an investigation, is also called an inquest or an inquisition.

2. An inquest of office was bound to find for the king upon the direction of the court. The reason given is that the inquest coucluded no man of his right, but only gave the king an opportunity to enter so that he could have his right tried. Moore, 730; Vaughan, 135; 3 H. VII. 10; 2 H. IV. 5; 3 Leon. 196.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
1. A body of men appointed by law to inquire into certain matters. The grand jury is sometimes called the "grand inquest."

2. The judicial inquiry made by a jury summoned for the purpose is called an "inquest." The finding of such men. upon an investigation, is also called an "inquest" People v. Coombs, 36 App. Div. 284, 55 N. Y. Supp. 276; Davis v. Bibb County, 116 Ga. 23, 42 S. E. 408.

3. The inquiry by a coroner, termed a "coroner's inquest," into the manner of the death of any one Who has been slain or has died suddenly or in prison.

4. This name is also given to a species of proceeding under the New York practice, allowable where the defendant in a civil action has not filed an affidavit of merits nor verified his answer. In such case the issue may be taken up, out of its regular order, on plaintiff's motion, and tried without the admission of any affirmative defense. An inquest is a trial of an issue of fact where the plaintiff alone introduces testimony. The defendant is entitled to appear at the taking of the inquest, and to cross-examine the plaintiff's witnesses; and, if he do appear, the inquest must be taken before a jury, unless a jury be expressly waived by him. Haines v. Davis, 6 How. Prae. (N. Y.) 118.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A judicial inquiry by a jury; the finding thereof. See Coroner.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary