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The punishment of supposed criminals, especially by hanging, by agreement of a crowd and without a genuine criminal trial. Lynch law was used in the early settlement of the West as a way of maintaining minimal law and order before a sheriff and courts could be set up. It has also been used to deprive unpopular suspects of their rights and to satisfy a mob's thirst for vengeance. Lynch law was often used by whites in the South to terrorize and subjugate blacks.