Comparing The Salem Witch Trials And The American Criminal Justice System

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Over 300 years ago, more than 100 citizens of the colony of Massachusetts were accused of the crime of witchcraft, and many executed. Although this era in history, known as the Salem
Witch Trials, lasted only mere months, its impact on the American criminal justice system has lasted until present day. Although both the trials in Salem and modern America are based on a similar justice system, there are vast differences, specifically in the rights of the defense, most notable in the separation of Church and State, the standards of evidence, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The modern American criminal justice system, in comparison to that of the time of the Salem Witch Trials, has changed drastically. No longer is the rule of law based on
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Today, modern standards require the burden of proof be brought forth by the plaintiff, or prosecution in criminal cases. This means that the accused no longer has to prove they did not commit the crime, but the prosecution has to prove that all the evidence proves the accused did in fact commit the crime in question. Circumstantial evidence is not enough, but physical evidence, or forensic evidence is now required in modern courts for a conviction.
Additionally, the modern standard when considering evidence, and for conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that unlike in the times of the Salem Witch Trials, accusations and witness testimony is not enough to convict, especially for a capital crime. The prosecution must prove that there is no other reasonable or logical conclusion for that has transpired other than the the accused has committed the crime in which they are accused. Similarly, and perhaps most important of all, in the modern criminal justice system one is considered innocent until proven guilty; whereas, during the Salem Witch Trials a presumption of guilt was almost immediate. Similar to the accused having to present evidence in their defense, the accused
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