Any Star Chamber talk in the cards?
Aaaaaand here’s today’s offering! Only took a few hours to read all that, and already Google’s ads are asking me if I want legal advice. Heh.
…and there’s more information about the Salem witch trial pressing I mentioned a few pages back.
It’s about England, not Salem. But it’s the same procedure.
Pressing — peine forte et dure — wasn’t something used to get confessions of guilt. It was just used to make you enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” The court was torturing you to submit to its jurisdiction, nothing more.
This became less and less necessary as the jurisdiction of the courts came to be seen as inherent — they had it whether you entered a plea or not. In the 1700s, the practice was abolished in England, and instead a refusal to plead was just taken as a plea of guilty. That arrangement offended common-law sensibilities, however, and within a few decades it had changed to an automatic plea of “not guilty.” That’s how it is in England and the U.S. now — if you refuse to plead one way or the other, a “not guilty” plea will be entered on your behalf.
When it happened to that guy in Salem, it was in the 1600s, when it was still a lawful proceeding in England. He was pressed for refusing to enter an initial plea and thus preventing the case from going forward. But I’m pretty sure he’s the only person that ever happened to in the colonies.
It seems like a really stupid rule to me. I mean, if the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over you, by what right are they torturing you?
Wait, what about witch trials in England? Didn’t they torture confessions out of people then, or was that just the rest of Europe?
It was illegal in England — even for accusations of witchcraft.
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