The Legitimacy of Spectral Evidence During the Salem Witchcraft Trials

34 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2015 Last revised: 25 Aug 2015

Rebecca Eaton

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

This paper looks at the use of spectral evidence during the Salem witch trials and examines whether its use was legitimate and in accordance with the evidential standards of the time (1692). Ultimately this paper finds that the use of spectral evidence was legitimate as it followed the slim guidelines available at the time. The court followed a strong precedent and the limited statutory guidance and instructions that were available. However there was acknowledgement at the time that spectral evidence was limiting the rights of those accused and was leading to unjust convictions. As such these trials invoked an acknowledgement of more modern standards of evidence. Therefore spectral evidence was legitimately used given the guidelines of the time despite the unjust effect that it had.

Keywords: Salem, witchcraft trials, spectral evidence

JEL Classification: K14, K33, K19

Suggested Citation

Eaton, Rebecca, The Legitimacy of Spectral Evidence During the Salem Witchcraft Trials (2013). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No. 34. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2647288

Rebecca Eaton (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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