After nearly 400 years, Connecticut’s witch trial victims have finally been granted justice. A resolution recognizing that the dozens of men and women who were accused, tried, and sometimes executed for the crimes of witchcraft and “familiarity with the devil” were innocent of those crimes sailed through the State Senate with nearly unanimous approval.
The resolution officially absolves those 11 men and women who were convicted and executed in Connecticut in the five decades from 1647 to 1697, as well dozens more who were indicted and humiliated by their community during that time. Additionally, it issues an apology to the families of those men and women, several of whom testified in support of the bill during its time in committee.
The legislation was the latest in a series of attempts over the years to find belated clemency for the 34 people falsely accused and persecuted by their communities all those centuries ago. Surviving family members, supporters, and enthusiasts celebrated the resolution’s passage.
“Our group is ecstatic, pleased and appreciative for the 34 indicted witch trial victims, 11 of whom were hanged, their descendants, and many others who care about justice,” said members of the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project following the vote. The group says they hope this resolution not only inspires legislatures in other states to do the same for their victims but that it helps to bring awareness of modern-day persecution around the world.
“While others have passed legislation to clear the names of people who suffered from witch trials, House Joint Resolution 34 is unique in many ways,” the group continued, referencing similar efforts in Massachusetts, “The resolution acknowledges the innocence and suffering of the victims and includes a formal expression of empathy, in addition to officially correcting the historical record and naming all who suffered including all indicted victims and those convicted to death by hanging.”
The resolution had its own share of trials during the legislative session. Despite impassioned arguments from descendants and supporters during its committee hearing, some lawmakers still saw the action as frivolous, unnecessary, or incorrect given that Connecticut was still a British colony at the time the trials occurred.
An amendment adopted during the House debate earlier this month added clarifying language in an attempt to reach a compromise with detractors. It more specifically defined the crimes for which they were offering absolution and included language recognizing that the trials and executions were done as part of a colonial justice system that wouldn’t stand up to modern scrutiny.
Only a single Republican Senator, Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott), voted against the resolution. Two senators were absent from the vote.