Have We Learned the Lessons of Salem?
1. What are the lessons?
——–Children (especially) can be influenced by suggestion and peer pressure to say things that are not true.
——–We should be skeptical of confessions when the confessions are the result of torture or when the person has a self-interest in confessing.
——–A “cooling off period” can sometimes prevent injustices.
——–Trials should be fair: evidence introduced should be reliable, witnesses should be subject to cross-examination, defendants should have legal assistance and be allowed to testify on their own behalf, and judges should be unbiased.
2. Have we had “modern-day witch hunts”?
——–HUAC/McCarthy “Communist hunts” of early 1950s (events that inspired The Crucible)
——–Day care abuse trials of 1980s (child witnesses, accusations multipy, people afraid to support accused, unbelievable charges, hysteria).
——–To read about a modern-day trial with many parallels to the Salem Trials, see The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial (the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history).