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Mercy (Middle English, from Anglo-French merci, from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, "price paid, wages", from merc-, merxi "merchandise") is a broad term that refers to , forgiveness and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social and legal contexts.
The concept of a "Merciful God" appears in various religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Performing acts of mercy as a component of religious beliefs is also emphasized through actions such as the giving of alms, and care for the sick and Works of Mercy.
In the social and legal context, mercy may refer both to compassionate behavior on the part of those in power (e.g. mercy shown by a judge toward a convict), or on the part of a humanitarian third party, e.g., a mission of mercy aiming to treat war victims.
"Mercy" can be defined as "compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power;" and also "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion." "To be at someone's mercy" indicates a person being "without defense against someone."
In a judicial context mercy is often termed "clemency". It is a sovereign prerogative that resides in the executive and is entirely discretionary. John Locke defined it as "the power to act according to discretion, for the public good, without the prescription of the Law, and sometimes even against it." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explained that "The very nature of clemency is that it is grounded solely in the will of the dispenser of clemency. He need give no reasons for granting it or for denying it."
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