September 19 (September 9, o.s.)

Massachusetts: The Court of Oyer and Terminer meets in Salem Town.  The first case to be tried is that of Mary Easty, who was indicted on August 3 after being released from jail and immediately rearrested when Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted girls of Salem Village, accused her of tormenting her almost to the point of death.  The testimony against her is largely about that incident, about which eight men tell heartbreaking stories about the extent of Mercy’s agony.  There are also two accounts of previous suspicious behavior on Easty’s part.

Easty offers a vigorous defense when her time comes.  She calls as character witnesses her children, her minister, and various members of her church, and she enters into evidence statements from the jailers in both Ipswich and Boston attesting to her good behavior while imprisoned.  She also asks that “testimony of witches, or such as are afflicted, as is supposed, by witches” not be accepted without concurring evidence from a more reliable source, especially against someone like her who has such a good reputation.  Despite these arguments, however, she is convicted.

After Easty’s trial is complete, the grand jury hears evidence against Mrs. Mary Bradbury of Salisbury, who was initially examined on July 2.  The evidence consists of both accounts of spectral torments and the statements of confessors, and the grand jury issues two indictments against Bradbury.  Her trial begins soon afterward.

At the trial, the prosecution’s case includes, in addition to the evidence presented to the grand jury, testimony from many more people describing previous suspicious encounters with Bradbury.  Richard Carr, an uncle of the afflicted girl Ann Putnam, testifies that several years earlier he, his father, and another man saw Bradbury turn herself into a blue boar and attack their horses.  His brother James testifies that he became suspiciously ill while competing with Bradbury’s son William for the hand of the young widow Rebecca Maverick.  He went to a doctor, who diagnosed witchcraft after he didn’t seem to improve with medication.  When James mentioned that Bradbury might be behind it, the doctor said that he believed Bradbury was worse than Susannah Martin, who had a long history of witchcraft suspicions and ended up being convicted by a previous session of the court and executed on July 19.

When the prosecution rests, Bradbury puts up a vigorous defense.  She presents a statement by her minister attesting to her good character, with a note by the Salisbury magistrate Robert Pike (who wrote a letter to Jonathan Corwin on August 9 expressing doubts about the court’s use of spectral evidence) concurring with the minister’s words. She also presents a similar statement by John Pike, Robert’s son, who is also a minister, as well as a petition on her behalf signed by 115 residents of Salisbury.  In addition to this evidence, she addresses the judges directly, pleading that she is a true Christian and innocent of witchcraft.  Nonetheless, she is convicted.

Once Bradbury’s trial is complete, the grand jury considers the case of Giles Corey, whose wife Martha was tried and convicted by the court the previous day.  Most of the evidence presented is spectral in nature, including testimony from both the usual group of afflicted persons and a few other Salem Village residents who claim to have seen Corey’s apparition in various contexts in the past few months.  Among these other witnesses is John DeRich, who testifies that Corey’s specter appeared to him and asked to borrow some plates.  The grand jury finds the mass of evidence, spectral though it is, convincing enough to indict Corey, but the court adjourns for the day without moving on to trying him.

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Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on September 19 (September 9, o.s.)  
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