June 11 (June 1, o.s.)

Massachusetts: Continuing their preparations for the first session of the new Court of Oyer and Terminer established to try the many witchcraft suspects in Essex County, the Salem magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin go to the Salem Town jail to further question the four confessed witches being held there: Abigail Hobbs, Deliverance Hobbs, Mary Warren, and Sarah Churchwell.  Except for Deliverance, who is Abigail’s stepmother, all of these confessors are teenage girls roughly the same age as many of the afflicted girls who have been accusing people of witchcraft.  Indeed, Warren and Churchwell were afflicted by fits themselves before they confessed.

When examined now by the magistrates, the confessors claim that other accused witches, particularly the clergyman George Burroughs, have continued their spectral attacks on them as punishment for confessing, and the specter of Rebecca Nurse appears to afflict them as they are talking.

The magistrates also examine Mary Warren separately from the other confessors and collect testimony from her against Bridget Bishop.  She says that Bishop has recently appeared to her spectrally and tried to get her to sign her book.  Although she admits that Bishop cannot now torment her directly because she is chained in jail (as per the order of Governor Phips on May 23), she says that she brought another specter with her to do the afflicting.  Warren didn’t know the identity of the additional specter at the time, but she now knows it to be Elizabeth Cary, whom she saw at Nathaniel Ingersoll’s tavern on May 24 when Cary was subjected to questioning and subsequently jailed.

Sarah Churchwell also speaks to the magistrates separately, and gives another confession to supplement her first one on May 9.  She now accuses Bridget Bishop and Ann Pudeator, in addition to her master George Jacobs, of witchcraft, and admits to having used images given to her by Pudeator to torment the afflicted girls Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam, and Betty Hubbard by sticking thorns in them.

Meanwhile, Ann Carr Putnam, the wife of Sergeant Thomas Putnam and mother of the afflicted girl Ann Putnam, suffers from renewed torments which she attributes to the specter of Rebecca Nurse, brought back to Salem from Boston the previous day in order to stand trial.  Putnam was afflicted herself up between March 18 and March 23 by Nurse and Martha Corey but was free of torments after then until she heard the magistrates reread her testimony the previous day in order for her to swear to it, when, according to her daughter, she was once again attacked by the apparitions not only of Nurse but of Martha Corey and Sarah Cloyce as well.

Mexico: The special court convened by the viceroy to try the suspects in the rioting and looting of June 8 begins its proceedings. The royal prosecutor Juan de Escalante y Mendoza gives the justices of the court their instructions. He charges them with the responsibility of meeting out vengeance against the ingrates who rose up against the rightful authorities despite all that those authorities had done for them, including the extraordinary measures the viceroy went to in his attempts to address the grain shortage. Since it is widely assumed that Indians were the main instigators of the riot (although Escalante does suggest that the judges look into the possibility that they were provoked by mixed-race troublemakers), the standards of guilt for Indian suspects are to be considerably more relaxed than is typical in Spanish courts. Possession of stolen goods by an Indian will be sufficient for conviction. To determine the identity of the ringleaders and establish exactly how the riot came about, suspects will be urged to confess, using torture if necessary. Those convicted of participating the riot itself, rather than just possessing goods stolen in the course of it, are to be sentenced to death. Torture and the death penalty are both very unusual measures for the Spanish colonial justice system, which is generally based around careful accumulation of evidence and a preference for productive punishments such as forced labor, but tensions are running high and the authorities want to convict and punish the rioters as quickly as possible.

Despite the relaxing of standards for the court, many traditional safeguards for the accused will still apply. All suspects will have the benefit of representation by attorneys, torture, while allowed, will be subject to strict limits and confessions made under torture will be subject to retraction the next day, and the trial proceedings will be carefully recorded.

Once these ground rules are established, the court quickly springs into action. The first suspects to be tried are three Indians, Melchor de León, Felipe de la Cruz, and Nicolás de la Cruz, who were caught in the act of setting fire to the royal palace. The evidence against them (and another Indian captured with them, Francisco Gregorio, who died in jail awaiting trial) is straightforward and overwhelming, and they are easily convicted and sentenced to death.

The sentence is carried out with no delay, and the three men are led to the plaza mayor, in front of the palace, and tied to three poles in front of a great crowd of spectators. A squadron of the palace guard serves as the firing squad, and each man is shot in the back of the head with such force that his head is blown to pieces. Their bodies are then hung by the arms from the gallows in the plaza, newly rebuilt after being destroyed in the riot, along with the body of Francisco Gregorio (hung by the neck). Their right hands are then cut off and mounted on poles in public squares throughout the city.

Published in: on June 11, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on June 11 (June 1, o.s.)  
%d bloggers like this: