- John Doe
name"John Doe" is used as a placeholder namefor a male party, in a legal action, case or discussion, whose true identity is either unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown. This practice is widely used in the United Statesand Canada, but is rare in other English-speaking countries (including the United Kingdomitself, from where it probably originates – see "Origin" below).
The female equivalent is Jane Doe, whilst a child or baby whose identity is unknown may be referred to as Baby Doe (or, in one particular case only, as
Precious Doe). Additional persons may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc. However, to avoid possible confusion, if two anonymous or unknown parties are cited in a specific case or action, the surnames Doe and Roe may be used simultaneously – for example, "John Doe v. Jane Roe". Other variations are John Stiles and Richard Miles, now rarely used, and Mary Major, which has been used in some American federal cases. [http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-joh2.htm]
The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown
defendants(but see "origin" below). Another set of names often used for anonymous parties, particularly plaintiffs, are Richard Roe for males and Jane Roe for females (as in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision " Roe v. Wade").
Even outside specific legal and medical contexts, the name John Doe is often used in general discourse and popular culture to refer to an unknown or "typical" person. A famous example is the
Frank Caprafilm " Meet John Doe". In this context its use is very similar to that of John Q. Publicor Joe Public.
The name was used at least as far back as
1659, in England – "To prosecute the suit, to witt John Doe And Richard Roe”" [http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-joh2.htm] – and perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III. ["What's In A Name", Merriam-Webster(1996)ISBN-13: 978-0877796138]
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". (Note that this is in marked contrast to current Nuttall Encyclopaedia" states that John O'Noakes, or John Noakes, is a fictitious name for a litigious person, used by lawyers in actions of ejectment.)
Since its original use in 1659 John Doe has been used to describe unknown men and has been used frequently in popular culture. Some of these uses include comics, albums, and was even the name of a 2002 American television series staring Dominic Purcell.
*The landmark 1973 Supreme Court abortion case
Roe v. Wadegets half of its name from Jane Roe, an anonymous plaintiff later revealed to be Norma McCorvey.
Torontowoman, publicly known only as Jane Doe, waged an 11-year court battle against the Toronto Police Serviceafter being raped in 1986, alleging that the police had used her as bait to catch the rapist. She won the case in 1998, and was named "Chatelaine"'s Woman of the Year that year. [http://www.walnet.org/jane_doe/news/toronto_99/chatelaine-9901.html] She published a book about her experience, "The Story of Jane Doe", in 2003.
St. Catharines, Ontariominor known as "Jane Doe" was drugged, raped and sodomized by the notorious Canadian killers Karla Homolkaand Paul Bernardo, who videotaped the assault. Her identity remains protected by law.
Informal names for unknown or unspecified persons in various countries/regions
Different fictitious names are used for unknown or unspecified persons in different countries in an informal context, rather than in a court of law or similar. These names are generally understood to be generic.
A. N. Other
*N.N. (Nomen nescio)
Keeping up with the Joneses
Jock Tamson's bairns
Main Street, High Street
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