20 November 2012

Pre-puberty Witches

I recently picked up a small volume by Henry Boguet titled An Examen of Witches edited by Montague Summers. A marvelous little book meant to instruct judges on how to properly prosecute witches. As with most prosecutions and punishments, an effort needed be made to standardize as much as possible both the prosecution and punishment of those before the court. In this instance, the subject is the prosecution and punishment of witches. Included in the above-referenced volume is The Manner of Procedure of a Judge in a Case of Witchcraft by Boguet. Article LXII specifically deals with the punishment of child witches, both those reaching puberty and those who have yet to reach puberty. Adults found to be witches, it must be noted, were either burned alive or where mitigating circumstances were found, strangled first and then burnt. Boguet believes, as we still do, that children should be given special consideration-that some mercy should be granted them. Boguet rejects the notion that child witches should not be put to death; but does impose the following caveat: only if the child acted with malice should the usual penalty apply. If it is found that the child acted with no malice, Boguet believes some more gentler form of penalty is required, such as hanging. The atrocity of the crime is why the ordinary provisions of the law are not applicable. Witchcraft is the most heinous of crimes. Once Satan has captured an individual, escape is nearly impossible therefore it is better to kill the children rather them rather than to allow them to remain living "in contempt of God and to the danger of the public". This logic, of course, is unassailable. We, those of us living in the 21st century United States have adopted this logic for the purpose of prosecuting and punishing sex offenders. Sex offenses are the most heinous of crimes. Once a sex offender always a sex offender as it is extremely unlikely that a sex offender can ever be rehabilitated; ergo, he remains a danger to the public and must be controlled and monitored throughout his life with either imprisonment or with constant supervision. I, as a lawyer, find it comforting to know that our jurisprudence has this history and tradition on which to draw for precedent. I highly recommend this volume to all those interested in the proper administration of justice. It is published by Dover Publications, Inc. in 2009. It is believed that the learned Henry Boguet published the original volume in 1619 as Discours des Sorciers. He was a magistrate of Burgundy. According to the editor, Mr. Summer, his book was used by many of the local parliaments to enact appropriate legislation.