The following paper will best explain the judicial system used during the Salem Witch Trials, a series of hearings over a witchcraft scare that took place from June through September of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. The writer shall include a brief history of the events, explain the judicial system of the Trials, and give detail to what methods were used to determine fate of a victim. Additionally, the writer will explain how the Trials were based on false views that were not supported.
The Trials began soon after a few young girls living in Salem began throwing unexplainable and spontaneous tantrums that consisted of sudden falling, screaming and crying in agony, and a loss of voice. After the girls had been questioned by their parents and the town’s judges and ministers to give an explanation for their demeanor, they were soon to hold three women responsible for acts of witchcraft. Witchcraft had been made a capital crime following the town’s establishment, which meant that the courts would press the alleged witches.
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Soon after, more girls began having episodes, which also meant that more were being accused, imprisoned, and killed. As the Trials moved on, more respected citizens were being punished, suspicions began to develop, and it was decided by the Boston pressure Governor Phips to no longer recognize spectral evidence, release those who were currently imprisoned, and end the Trials. The judicial system used during the Trials was rather simple and made up of five basic steps.
First, someone would make an accusation about someone that he or she believed to be a witch to the Magistrate. Complaints were often made through someone else to pass the notice onto the Magistrate. Next, a warrant of arrest would be issued, the victim would be taken into examination, then if Magistrate feels that he or she is guilty, they would send the victim to jail and make them stand trial. Third, the circumstances along with evidence supporting or not supporting the case would be revealed to the Grand Jury.
Next, if the alleged is found to be guilty by the Grand Jury, he or she is tried in front of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Then, A jury that is chosen by the Court decides the fate of the victim. If convicted, the victim would be ordered to a death by hanging that would then be carried out by the sheriff (total of nineteen hangings). Methods that were used to determine whether or not someone was innocent or guilty would be considered slightly farfetched in modern times.
One method was the use of spectral evidence, which was drawn upon quite often. This was the claim that an evil spirit of the supposed witch visited the afflicted. A few even claimed that it was the Devil’s doing, meaning that he or she would take corporeal form. Some argued that the Devil could have done this with someone’s permission and some argued that the Devil could have done this without, which would favor the defendant. However the court recognized that this could only be done with the permission of the witch.
Another method was “the witch cake. ” The aunt of one of the afflicted girls ordered a rye cake with the urine of one of the girl’s on it to be made and fed to a dog. Several thought that when the dog would eat this, latent particles that had been transferred to one of the girls by a witch would be chewed, forcing the witch to cry out in pain, revealing their identity. This of course was a false belief, and was soon to be recognized as a mistake. One last method used, was the touch test.
In this test, the accused would have to rest his or her hand upon the afflicted, and if the test was successful, the evil magic that had been sent over by the witch would return to his or her body, thus curing the afflicted. In Conclusion, the unjust judicial system of the Trials had taken away nineteen innocent lives, and imprisoned even more. The system favored the afflicted and was based solely on his or her word; it clearly did not justify the actions of the young girls, and still would not have if the girls had actually been afflicted, for the reason that there was a lack of evidence.
Furthermore, within the Trials were a series of faulty tests derived from superstitious beliefs that only helped support the fallacy of the whole event. Works Cited Linder, Douglas. “Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692. ” Famous American Trials. Mar. 2007. UMKC School of Law. 24 Sept. 2008 ;http://www. law. umkc. edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/salem. htm;. Microsoft. “Salem Witch Trials. ” MSN Encarta. 2008. Microsoft. 24 Sept. 2008 ;http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_701701818_2/salem_witch_trials. html;.