Salem Witch Trials Judges

Magistrates Presiding Over Cases Accusing Witchcraft

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Salem Witch Trials Judges." ThoughtCo, Apr. 30, 2016, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2016, April 30). Salem Witch Trials Judges. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Salem Witch Trials Judges." ThoughtCo. (accessed September 20, 2017).
Salem Witch Trial
Salem Witch Trial - Trial of George Jacobs. Douglas Grundy / Three Lions / Getty Images

Local Magistrates Presiding for Examinations

Before the Court of Oyer and Terminer was appointed, these magistrates presided at the examinations, which functioned as preliminary hearings and decided whether there was enough evidence to hold an accused witch for trial:

  • Jonathan Corwin, Salem
  • John Hathorne, Salem
  • Bartholomew Gedney, Salem
  • Thomas Danforth, Boston

Court of Oyer and Terminer: May 1692 - October 1692

When the new Massachusetts Governor William Phips arrived from England in mid-May of 1692, he found that he needed to deal with a backlog of cases of accused witches who were filling up jails.

  He appointed a Court of Oyer and Terminer, with Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton as its chief magistrate.  Five were required to be present for the court to be in official session.

  • Chief Magistrate: Lt. Gov. William Stoughton, Dorchester
  • Jonathan Corwin, Salem
  • Bartholomew Gedney, Salem
  • John Hathorne, Salem
  • John Richards, Boston
  • Nathaniel Saltonstall, Haverhill
  • Peter Sergeant, Boston
  • Samuel Sewell, Boston
  • Wait Still Winthrop, Boston

Stephen Sewall was appointed clerk of the court and Thomas Newton was appointed Crown's Attorney. Newton resigned on May 26 and was replaced on May 27 by Anthony Checkley.

In June, the court sentenced Bridget Bishop to be hanged, and Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned from the court, perhaps without attending any of the sessions to that point.

Assigned to handle property of those convicted:

  • Bartholomew Gedney
  • John Hathorne
  • Jonathan Corwin

Superior Court of Judicature: Established November 25, 1692

The role of the Superior Court of Judicature, replacing the Court of Oyer and Terminer, was to dispose of the remaining witchcraft cases.

The court first met in January, 1693. Members of the Superior Court of Judicature:

  • Chief Justice: William Stoughton, Dorchester
  • Thomas Danforth
  • John Richards, Boston
  • Samuel Sewall, Boston
  • Wait Still Winthrop, Boston