The Devil on Trial

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‘The Devil on Trial’ by Phillip Margulies and Maxine Rosaler The book, The Devil on Trial: Witches, Anarchists, Atheists, Communists, and Terrorists in America’s Courtroom, discusses the rights people have in the courtroom. It tells the stories of cases that tested the court system’s ability to give everyone the right to a fair trial. The trials mentioned in the book are the Salem Witch Trials, the Haymarket Bomb Trial, the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, the Trials of Alger Hiss, and the Trials of Zacarias Moussaoui. In 1692, during the Salem Witch Trials, the legal systems were not as fair as they would become. “There was no police force; officials called “magistrates” performed the roles of judges. Magistrates were usually men of high standing in the community, but they did not necessarily have any legal training.”(Margulies and Rosaler 12). Also, in criminal trials, the accused had no defense counsel and were not considered to be innocent until proven guilty. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for the use of torture to obtain confessions. The Salem Witch Trials started by little girls acting strangely and then accusing others to have bewitched them. The defendants during the Salem Witch Trials took desperate matters to avoid being executed. Sarah Good resorted to saying the other accused “witch”, Sarah Osborne, had “tormented the children.” At one point Osborne even pretended to also have been infected by the witches’ magic. Tituba admitted to being a witch and told stories of flying around on broomsticks and being visited by creatures. Confessing to witchcraft was the only way a member of the accused wouldn’t be executed. At the end of the trials, one of the girls who accused people of being witches stated, “It was all false.” The damage done during the trials was over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, twenty-nine were convicted of witchcraft, nineteen of the accused
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