Two girls lye sleeping, one with her eyes open, the other with her eyes closed. Not such an unusual picture except for the fact that the two sleeping girls cannot awake. A mysterious servant from a faraway place, a group of young ladies seeking magic to joins their hearts with the men that haunt their dreams. A man of the cloth who stumbles onto a secret dance in the middle of the forest who will spend the next year of his life harboring secrets and trying desperately not to be exposed. The town of Salem sucked into the vacuum of conspiracy, accusations, innuendo and the horrifying fact that maybe Lucifer has come to make a house call. They say that truth is stranger than fiction and if this story wasn’t a dark shadow on our nation’s history it would make for a great novel. But if it was the truth and for those who where there, a horrible reality. This community so caught up in the possibility that witchcraft existed, they completely lost their senses. The following is a breakdown of all the legal issues that by today’s standards where not followed.
Church and State
Out of all the issues that will be addressed, this one is the most difficult. In the 1600’s, the church was interwoven with the state and the operation of government. Enter Reverend Hale a scholar of witchcraft. Unbeknownst to everyone, a novice at his trade; a person trying to gain status in the new country. The power of life and death lay in his hands, by his words a person could be deemed a witch and suffer the consequences. It was Rev. Hale who was the fuel that lit the fire. The first amendment clause of the United States Constitution states, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Although this country was founded in a belief of god and morality, the intent was never to have the church involved with the judiciary. The justices would not assemble in Salem, Massachusetts until Reverend Hale found proof of witchery. And by the words of a child, and with a desire he found find what he sought, witchcraft was found in Salaam and the justices where assemble. With a hidden agenda and his life and position at stake, Reverend Parris joins to support the movement this helps fire the furnace and gain support for the movement.
Freedom of Speech, Expression & Religion
Although not of majority, Abigail and her group of Satin worshipers where denied by her uncle and the community their right to free speech. The very essence of being an American, the right of free speech and worship as granted by the first amendment of the Constitution. Amendment I Section 12 protected the girls right to practice the satanic ritual. The country as whole was not allowed to practice whatever religion they choose.
Forced or Co worst Confession
It started with the whipping of Tituba the servant and ended with the offering of anvisty to Proctor or any other citizen who admitted to the practicing of witchcraft. False witness statements, Hearsay and forced confession all took place. Reverend Parris beat his servant until she admitted guilt and participation in the practice of witchcraft she was anvisty when she then pointed the finger at Abigail. This was the mayhem that started to grow. As others where accused, the accused pointed to another. Statement of falsity became statement of fact. It became a case of freedom exchanged for defendants.
As stated in the Due Process clause of the Constitution, all people are entitled to Due Process. This includes, a right to an attorney, the right to have the attorney present during questioning, a right to remain silent, a right to have an attorney appointed if you can not afford one. This whole concept completely thrown out the window during the witchcraft trials. The complete process went a rye from the beginning. With a grand jury never seated to hear evidence and testimony to find basis for a case, the case went forward. Three justices where empanel to hear the case, but most importantly there was no jury of the defendant’s piers. This right is granted in the United States Constitution in Article III sect 3. And defined in Amendment V, No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury. There was no evidence presented except for heresy and theatrics presented by Abigail’s little faction, the justices believed that ?the Devil was in Salem?, and they were going to find him. Although in the most part the defendants were able to face their accusers, there where many instances were the defendants did not. Ever present was the court’s acceptance of the theatrics of the young ladies when the case would turn in favor of the defendant. The court allowed un-substantiated evidence, and completely overlooking the best evidence rule. With no interrogation process, and with no right to council, the defendants most of whom where uneducated farmers where placed in the position of having to handle their own cases pro-say. Out numbered, and out brained the result was the capital punishment of hanging. Ironically, if this trial would of taken place after the original Constitution was ratified, Reverend Parris would have a property tort against the government when his servant Tituba was convicted and hanged. More importantly the accused where denied their rights under Amendment IV of the Constitution which states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. As the defendants where convicted, they where stripped of there property. Property searched and seized all without probable cause.
Defamation ; Slander
As the trial got underway, another factor emerged. The accused where publicly humiliated both by their fellow citizens and in the press. The names of the accused where posted in the Salaam and in the salaam press and throughout New England. They were cursed and ridiculed and even after the trials where suspended. Those who where not hanged where looked down upon for the rest of their lives. Their name was far more important to them then any wealth that was accumulated. This point was strongly pointed out by Proctor who as a final stand for his dignity refused to sign the confession that would set his wife and himself free. How may I live without my name? I have given you my sole; leave me my name! So valuable one’s name that Proctor would rather die then be defamed.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt & the Right of Appeal
The nineteen victims of the Salaam witch hunt where never given true Due Process as allowed by the constitution. The evidence against them did not come anywhere near Reasonable Doubt, they where convicted by allegations, rumor and non-truths. Part of this Due Process is the right to appeal. These folks where imprisoned for quite a period of time loosing their right to speedy trial. Maybe more importantly, upon conviction they were not allowed to appeal the verdict. Within a short period of time following the convictions, the convicted where hanged.
Sovereignty & Conspiracy
As the play climaxes, we are faced with one of the hidden truths, the justices so committed to the right outcome will do anything to maintain their judgment. In Act three, the chief justice is handed a petition from Proctor. The form contains a list of over 70 people begging for the end to the trials. Instead of looking at the document and supporting the sovereign of the people, he chooses to use it as a list of future indictments. Knowing that the community is in favor of ending the insanity, the justices choose to use it as a weapon. Further, after Protor presented one of the young ladies involved to testify to the truth of the matter, the justice choose to view her testimony of that of a liar or a person of unstable mind. The three justices commit conspiracy by knowing the truth but choosing ego and vanity over the truth and doing the right thing.
It is almost understandable that a community at the point in our history that they where, could get caught up in such an ordeal. Religion stood much higher in loyalty then even the government. Like many other similar events that have taken place in history, people are prone to being caught in a frenzy. The devil was as real to these people as anything in the natural world. Fear of dam nation or eternal hell filled there minds and carried them away. This was not the only witch trial that made the history books; two hundred years later a man by the name of senator McCarthy had one of his own. Like Salaam, life’s, marriages and livelihoods were lost.
legal aspects of the Crucibal