Fred's "American Legal Quotations" scores a hit

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Oct 3 03:07:50 UTC 2013

On Oct 2, 2013, at 9:27 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Yes Salem is in Massachusetts.  In its colonial law, all capital
> crimes had to be presented to and by a grand jury.  It was the
> prevalent belief, not only of magistrates but also of the people,
> that witches existed.  The controversy was whether spectral evidence
> was valid.

Ah, spectral evidence...reminds me of that Sally Rogers song about Susanna Martin from Amesbury (just 37 minutes from Salem via I-95, and even less by broomstick):

Susanna Martin was a witch who lived in Amesbury
With brilliant eye and saucy tongue she worked her sorcery
And when into the judge's court the sheriffs brought her hither
The lilacs drooped as she passed by
And then were seen to wither

A witch she was, though trim and neat with comely head held high
It did not seem that one as she with Satan so would vie
And when in court when the afflicted ones proclaimed her evil ways
She laughed aloud and boldly then
Met Cotton Mather's gaze

The neighbors 'round swore to the truth of her Satanic powers
That she could fly o'er land and stream and come dry-shod through showers
At night, twas said, she had appeared a cat of fearsome mien
"Avoid she-devil," they had cried
To keep their spirits clean.

The spectral evidence was weighed, then stern the parson spoke
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, tis written in the Book"
Susanna Martin so accused, spoke with flaming eyes
"I scorn these things for they are naught
But filthy gossips' lies"

[she's hanged a bit later in the song based on the spectral evidence; quick justice in those days]

LH (a few yards down from Mather St., which is named for guess who)

>  After about 100 (I think) had been convicted and about 20
> executed, there was widespread repugnance.  We can't say what later
> grand juries would have done, because the prosecutions were halted by
> a newly-appointed governor.
> Joel
> At 10/1/2013 10:58 PM, David A. Daniel wrote:
>> Isn't Salem - as in witch hunting - in Massachusetts? Did they have grand
>> juries? If so, I guess all those charges must have been justified.
>> DAD
>> -Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 8:58 PM
>> Subject: Fred's "American Legal Quotations" scores a hit
>> -
>> poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>> Subject:      Fred's "American Legal Quotations" scores a hit
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ---
>> "There is a famous saying, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,"
>> said Bassil.  "I look forward to challenging this in court.  I really
>> do.  If a grand jury is supposed to protect citizens from
>> overreaching prosecutors, then there is a lot of work to be done here."
>> Bassil, counsel for Shayanna Jenkins, Aaron Hernandez's fiancee and
>> baby mother, is objecting to her indictment for perjury by a Bristol
>> County, Massachusetts, grand jury.  A spokesman for the Bristol
>> District Attorney "defended the grand jury process, noting that the
>> indictment was voted on by the grand jurors, who are citizens of
>> Bristol County."
>> Boston Globe, today.
>> Massachusetts has a long history of grand juries not indicting ham
>> sandwiches, dating from colonial times, when if a law was considered
>> overly severe or its punishment harsh, the citizens of a grand jury
>> might refuse to indict and those of a petit jury refuse to
>> convict.  (One good example is charges of adultery.)  Bassil seems
>> not to understand the rectitude of Massachusetts grand juries -- if
>> this one thought the charge was unjust, it would not have voted to indict.
>> Joel
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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