Public hearing today over Connecticut witchcraft exonerations

T.H. Matteson, Examination of a Witch, 1853.
T.H. Matteson, Examination of a Witch, 1853.(MGN)
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 9:55 AM EST
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - A public hearing over the possible exoneration of those convicted of witchcraft in the 1600s is set for Wednesday in Hartford.

House Joint Resolution 34, the “Resolution Concerning Certain Witchcraft Convictions in Colonial Connecticut,” will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building.

The resolution was introduced by several state lawmakers, including Sen. Saud Anwar and Rep. Jane Garibay.

“The witchcraft trials of the 1600s in Connecticut led to the tarnishing, excommunication and even murder of innocent people,” the lawmakers said. “Hundreds of years later, we can acknowledge these wrongs and provide peace of mind for the descendants of these innocent men and women, and the descendants of those who put them on trial. It is never too late to apologize when you’ve done something wrong, and that is what this resolution recognizes.”

The bill essentially seeks to exonerate those who were convicted of and executed on charges of witchcraft in the state.

At least 34 Connecticut women and men were indicted for the crime of witchcraft. Twelve were convicted and 11 were executed, the lawmakers said.

The resolution noted that the legal proceedings that took place in the cases in the 1600s would no longer meet modern standards of proof. Further, they involved miscarriages of justice and were influenced by community strife and panic, as well as fear and superstition.

While only nine women and two men were executed based on accusations of witchcraft, the remaining accused were often forced to flee or were banished, even if they were acquitted.

The lawmakers said many lived with destroyed reputations and tarnished family names. It was knowledge that informs the lives of their descendants today.