Death by crushing or pressing is a method of execution which has a long history during which the techniques used varied greatly from place to place. This form of execution is no longer sanctioned by any governing body.
A common method of death throughout South and South-East Asia for over 4,000 years of recorded history, and perhaps before that, was crushing by elephants. The Romans and Carthaginians also used this method on occasion.
Crushing is also reported from Pre-Columbian America, notably in the Aztec empire.
The common law courts originally took a very limited view of their own jurisdiction. They considered themselves to lack jurisdiction over a defendant until he had voluntarily submitted to it by entering a plea seeking judgment from the court. Obviously, a criminal justice system that punished only those who volunteered for punishment was unworkable; this was the means chosen to coerce them.
Many defendants charged with capital offences nonetheless refused to plead, since thereby they would escape forfeiture of property, and their heirs would still inherit their estate; but if the defendant pled guilty and was executed, their heirs would inherit nothing, their property escheating to the Crown. Peine forte et dure was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1772, although the last known actual use of the practice was in 1741. In 1772 refusing to plead was deemed to be equivalent to pleading guilty. This was changed in 1827 to being deemed a plea of not guilty. Today, in all common law jurisdictions, standing mute is treated by the courts as equivalent to a plea of Not Guilty.
The elaborate procedure was recorded by a fifteenth-century witness in an oft-quoted description: "he will lie upon his back, with his head covered and his feet, and one arm will be drawn to one quarter of the house with a cord, and the other arm to another quarter, and in the same manner it will be done with his legs; and let there be laid upon his body iron and stone, as much as he can bear, or more ..."
The most famous case in the United Kingdom was that of Roman Catholic martyr Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was pressed to death on March 25, 1586, after refusing to plead to the charge of having harboured Catholic (then outlawed) priests in her house (in order to avoid a trial in which her own children would be obliged to give evidence).
The only executee of peine forte et dure in American history was Giles Corey, who was pressed to death on September 19, 1692, during the Salem witch trials, after he refused to enter a plea in the judicial proceeding. According to legend, his last words as he was being crushed were "More weight", and he was thought to be dead as the weight was applied. This is referred to in Arthur Miller's political drama The Crucible, where Giles Corey is pressed to death after refusing to plead "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft. In the film version of this play, the screenplay also written by Arthur Miller, Corey is crushed to death for refusing to reveal the name of a source of information.
Today Crushing describes also a fetish. For more see the article on Crush fetish.
http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?path=sessionsPapers%2F16760823.xml. As an example see Reference Number: t16760823-6 from Old Bailey Aug 26.1676 where this executionmethod is used