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Escaping Salem

Autor:   •  November 6, 2018  •  1,533 Words (7 Pages)  •  32 Views

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town of Compo as one of her attackers. (p. 39) Weeks later Kate came up with 4 more women to put on the chopping block. One of the women, unbeknown to Kate, had been hanged for witchcraft years before. The other 3 women were a girl, her mother and grandmother.(p. 45-49) The grandmother, "Mary Staples had won a slander suit many years before against a neighbor who accused her of being a witch and a liar." (p. 49)

Fortunately for the accused women the criminal justice system back then was closer to that of our current system. The investigating body first brought the women to a Grand Jury who decided if Kates testimony alone was enough to try the three newly accused women. They decided there was and brought the woman in for trial. Only two witnesses appeared in court to testify against the woman, and the court magistraites dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence. (p 60-61) Goody Miller fled to a neighboring state, leaving only Goody Clawson and Goody Disborough to be tried. (p58)

Though having no legal training, William Jones, Conneticut’s Deputy Governor was appointed to the specal court. Mr. Jones took this job very seriously and did alot of research prescribing procedures for prosecuting a suspected witch. Since this was a capital punishment case he knew that New England courts "demanded clear proof of guilt and required two independent witnesses for each incriminating act"(p 89) or a confession from the accused. (p 88-89) Also the evidence must show "either 1st that the party accused hath made a league with the Devil or 2nd hath done some known practices of witchcraft." (p 102) None of the evidence that William Jones had seen showen any substantial evedence that, if this even was witchcraft affecting Kathren Branch, that it was Clawson or Disbourough doing it through a pact with the Devil.

The trial began on September 14, 1692 and moved along quickly but the deliberation of the jury ground to a halt. Those who did believe Clawson or Disborough were involved. The most damning piece of ’evidence’ was "a ’Devil’s mark’ an abnormal lump of flesh that looked like an extra nipple." (p93-94) In the mean time, a group of ministers were asked to read the depositions and give their opinion as experts of preternatural phenomena. The ministers report was inconclusive but they did accept the devil’s mark as a basis for conviction. They stipulated though that the unusual mark must be confirmed by a physician, not by a group of midwifes. (p 116-117)

Court reconvined on October 28 1692, the jury found Mercy Disborough "guilty according to the indictment" even without having a physician examine the suspected Devil’s mark and was sentanced to be hung. Goody Clawson was found "not guilty according to the indictment" and was aquitted without prejudice. (p. 119-120) A group of Disborough’s supporters petitioned the conviction be overturned on the grounds that when court reconvened one of the jurors had not returned and another was added in his place. (p122) The General Court of Connecticut appointed a committee of magistrates to look into the claim of this illegal substitution of a juror . After six months the committee sided against the conviction and acquitted Mercy Disborough of the crime and found there had been insufficient evidence of the crime in the first place. (p 123-125)

Even in these times of isolation, devout religious fanatics, and alleged witches, the people in 17th century Connecticut were able to logically come up with investigative standards. They found a way o not allow religious fervor supersede a fair trial.


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