[early 16C–1940s] the hangman’s noose; also one who is to be hanged, gallows bait; cite 1793 refers to a rope, but not for hanging.
[18C–early 19C] a judicial hanging.
[late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) money paid to thief takers and others involved in the conviction of felons.
[pun on habeas corpus, lit. ‘thou shalt have the body’; a writ whereby an accused and imprisoned person must be brought before the court and the reason for his imprisonment justified]