Connecticut pardons the "witches" it executed centuries ago

Connecticut senators voted 33-1-2 to pardon people accused centuries ago of witchcraft, including 11 who were put to death.

Alse (Alice) Young, a resident of Windsor, Connecticut, was the first person executed for witchcraft in America, the judiciary documents showed. She was hanged at the gallows in Hartford in May 1647. The judiciary noted the panic over witchcraft in Hartford was smaller than the one in Salem, Massachusetts, but started four decades earlier. The last witchcraft trial in the state happened in 1697 and resulted in the charges against Wallingford residents Winifred Benham and her teen daughter being dismissed. Witchcraft continued to be listed as a capital crime until 1750.

The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, a group of advocates and ancestors of those convicted, said in a statement a total of 34 victims were indicted on witchcraft charges in Connecticut during the 1600s.

The text of the resolution:

"the General Assembly recognizes that residents of colonial Connecticut were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft in the seventeenth century and that such persons were tried, convicted and sometimes sentenced to death for such offense, and declares that, although these accusations, prosecutions, trials and executions cannot be undone or changed, no disgrace or cause for distress should attach to the heirs of those persons."

The single "No" vote was Sen. Rob Sampson, a Republican representing Wolcott, who plainly suggested the witches were guilty as charged. Sampson is often found in similar minorities on votes concerning gay marriage, climate change remediation, conversion therapy, etc.

He said it was arrogant of lawmakers to think they know better than those at other times of history, without being presented the same set of facts.

"I would not dare to suggest that I know any better because I've not studied these folks," Sampson said. "I certainly wasn't present, and none of us were."