Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Begging your Pardon? Witchcraft in Colonial Connecticut.

For a person who has been convicted of a crime in the state of Connecticut to have their record cleared, they must make an application for a pardon to the Board of Pardons and Parole, which is a subdivision of the state Department of Corrections.   Whether a pardon will be granted depends heavily on the seriousness of the criminal offense and the circumstances surrounding and following the conviction.  But what happens when the conviction was hundreds of years ago?  Connecticut was the first colony to execute an individual convicted of witchcraft in the 17th century.  Goodwife Bessett confessed to witchcraft (undoubtedly under conditions which would constitute duress today) and hanged in Stratford, Connecticut in 1651 (more than forty years before the infamous Salem Witch Trials which occurred in present day Danvers, Massachusetts.) 

However, some Connecticut residents are searching for redemption for some of those wrongly accused and executed so long ago.  A retired police Sergeant from New Haven, Mr. Tony Grieco, is seeking community support for the issuance of pardons on behalf of 11 named individuals who were executed as witches in Connecticut.  As quoted by WTNH.com, “Grieco says many of the so-called witches were tried, convicted, and executed at the old State House in Hartford. The first one was hung from a tree and buried in a hole back in 1647.”  Mr. Grieco takes issue with the fact that "[m]ost of the people who were accused had no defense attorneys [and] their trails were based on accusation from neighbors."

Unfortunately for Mr. Grieco and the tarnished reputations of the Connecticut witches, Governor Dan Malloy lacks the power to grant such a pardon request, and representatives of the Queen of England (as England ruled colonial Connecticut in the 17th century) simply do not have enough information to act on Mr. Grieco’s request.  It seems for the foreseeable future, the witches will remain on the books. 

Happy Halloween!