The witan was also a court of justice, Earl Godwine and many other offenders receiving sentence of outlawry therein.
As the number of kings decreased the number of witans decreased, until early in the 9th century there was one king and one witan in all England.
Evidence in support of this view is sought for in the accounts in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and elsewhere, where the decisions of the witan were received with loud expressions of approval or of disapproval by an assembled crowd, and it is argued that this is a survival from an earlier age, when all the freemen attended the witan.
An instance of this is seen in the election of Edmund Ironside, although the Witan outside London had elected Canute.
The witan appears probably to have had no fixed place of meeting, and to have assembled around the person of the king, wherever he might be.
The number of counsellors attending the meetings of the witan varied considerably from time to time.
The power of the witan varied according to the personality of the reigning king, being considerable under a weak ruler, but inconsiderable under a strong one.
But ere the year was out Edmund died: secretly murdered, according to some authorities, by the infamous Eadric. The witan of Wessex made no attempt to set on the throne either one of the younger Sons of)Ethelred by his Norman wife, or the infant heir of Edmund, but chose Canute as king, preferring to reunite England by submission to the stranger rather than to continue the disastrous war, They were wise in.
On his death the Witan which had attended his funeral elected to succeed him Harold, the foremost man in England, and the leader who had attempted to check the spread of the Norman influence fostered by the Confessor.
There may be the folk-right of West and East Saxons, of East Angles, of Kentish men, Mercians, Northumbrians, Danes, Welshmen, and these main folk-right divisions remain even when tribal kingdoms disappear and the people is concentrated in one or two realms. The chief centres for the formulation and application of folkright were in the 10th and iith centuries the shire-moots, while the witan of the realm generally placed themselves on the higher ground of State expediency, although occasionally using folkright ideas.