Victims ignored by courts

As soon as the trials were over the victims and their relatives pleaded with the courts for financial compensation and social recognition. They had to wait until 1700 for any legal body even to acknowledge their requests, and by this time many families had already been ruined. Accused witch Abigail Falkner was the first person to write a request to the court for a "defacing of the record" emphasizing that she was regarded as a criminal in her community. She noted, according to Frances Hill, that the only testimony in her case had been spectral evidence, which had since lost any legal validity. Despite this fact the courts did not grant Falkner's request, and it continued to delay action on the appeals of other victims as well. In March 1702 frustrated survivors and relatives submitted an extensive petition to the courts asking for formal restitution (restoring) of character. In response the Massachusetts legislature passed a formal bill forbidding the use of spectral evidence, thus implying the innocence of people who had been wrongly convicted and executed—but still not formally clearing their names.

A year and a half later former prisoners and their families tried another tactic. This time they appealed to the Massachusetts General Court, claiming that Elizabeth Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr. (see biography and primary source entries), and the other girls who started the witchcraft hysteria had been possessed by the devil and therefore their testimony had no legal basis. Again the courts gave no formal response. In May 1709 another petition requested both social and financial remuneration (payment), but once again there was no formal reaction from the courts. In 1710 Isaac Easty presented a memo asking for compensation for the loss of his wife, Mary, one of the twenty people who were executed. As recorded by Francis Hill in A Delusion of Satan, Easty acknowledged that nothing could make up for his "sorrow and trouble of heart in being deprived of her in such a manner" and declared that the courts should render justice to him and the families of other victims. Easty's action prompted relatives of executed witches Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Wilde, Mary Bradbury, George Burroughs, Giles and Martha Corey, and Rebecca Nurse to submit similar pleas. At long last the courts granted a sum of 578 pounds (British money) to be split among the petitioners and the families of other victims according to their financial status prior to the tri als. Again, according to Hill, as a result there was a great disparity in the distribution of the money, with the family of John and Elizabeth Proctor receiving 150 pounds and Elizabeth Howe's relatives being awarded only 12 pounds.

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