The Connecticut State Senate voted Thursday to absolve 12 women and men convicted of witchcraft more than 370 years ago, apologizing to extended family members for a “miscarriage of justice.”
At least 11 of the defendants were executed during a 15-year span of Connecticut’s early history as a colony.
The Senate voted 33 to 1 in favor of a resolution officially declaring their innocence.
He marked the the culmination of years of effort by a group called the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, made up of history buffs and descendants.
Some of the descendants recently learned through genealogical testing that they were related to the accused witches and have since lobbied the state General Assembly to officially clear their names.
The Connecticut State Senate voted on Thursday to absolve 12 women and men who were convicted of witchcraft more than 370 years ago, apologizing to extended family members for a ‘miscarriage of justice’
“People can say we’re wasting our time this afternoon, maybe we could do something else,” Republican Sen. John Kissel said, acknowledging early criticism of the legislative effort.
“But I think it’s a small step in acknowledging our history and moving forward together, Democrats, Republicans, men and women toward a better future.”
The resolution, which lists the nine women and two men who were executed and the only woman who was convicted and granted a reprieve, has already passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 121 to 30.
As it is a resolution, it does not require the governor’s signature.
Republican state Sen. Rob Sampson voted the only no on Thursday.
He said it was wrong and childish to suggest “somehow we have the right to dictate what was right or wrong about periods of the past of which we have no knowledge”.
“I don’t want to see bills that rightly or wrongly attempt to paint America as a bad place with a bad history,” Sampson added.
“I want us to focus on what we are going to do, which is a better and brighter future.” And I don’t want to see anyone try to defile the country I love.
Beth Caruso, author and co-founder of the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, which was created to clear the names of defendants
Republican state Sen. Rob Sampson voted the only no on Thursday. He said it was wrong and childish to suggest “somehow we have the right to dictate what was right or wrong about past times of which we have no knowledge”.
Supporters of the resolution argued that it was important to raise awareness of the Connecticut witch trials, which took place decades before the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts.
“It’s important to right the wrongs of the past so that we learn from them and move on and don’t repeat those mistakes,” said Joshua Hutchinson, of Prescott Valley, Arizona, who retraced his ancestry to accused witches in Salem and is the host of ‘Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.’
Senator Saud Anwar, a Democrat who advocated for the resolution on behalf of a voter who learned he was the descendant of a witch accuser, said lawmakers heard testimony during the hearing process public about the witch trials that were still taking place around the world, including in African countries. and the need to draw attention to the problem.
“It’s relevant even at this time as well,” he said.
Alse Young, who was killed on the gallows in Connecticut, was the first recorded person to be executed in the American colonies for witchcraft.
The Town Clerk of Windsor recorded the death as May 26, 1647, in a diary entry which read, “Alse Young was hanged.”
Courts in the early British colonies of Connecticut and New Haven eventually indicted at least 34 women and men for crimes of witchcraft and familiarity with the devil.
Other states and countries have attempted to atone for a history of persecuting people as witches.
The Senate voted 33 to 1 in favor of a resolution officially declaring their innocence. It marked the culmination of years of effort by a group called the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, made up of history buffs and descendants.
“I don’t want to see bills that rightly or wrongly attempt to paint America as a bad place with a bad history,” Sampson added. “I want us to focus on what we are going to do, which is a better and brighter future.” And I don’t wanna see nobody try to stain the country I love’
Last year the Scottish Prime Minister issued a formal apology to the roughly 4,000 Scots, mostly women, accused of witchcraft up to 1736. Of the 4,000, around 2,500 were killed.
Last year, a Scottish MP called for their posthumous pardon.
In 2022, Massachusetts lawmakers officially exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr., who was convicted of witchcraft in 1693 and sentenced to death at the height of the Salem witch trials.
Johnson is believed to be the latest accused Salem witch to have her conviction overturned by lawmakers.
Many historians believe that fear and anxiety among the religiously strict English colonists led to the witch trials, noting how very difficult life was, given epidemics, floods, cold winters and famine.
Often the charges began with a quarrel, or the death of a child or a cow, or even butter that could not be churned. Many of those executed as witches were poor single mothers.