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Descendant of woman hanged as witch pushes for exoneration

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Updated: 10/24/2012 1:57 pm
By Brian Burnell
NBC News

HARTFORD, Conn. -- In colonial America people believed in and feared witches.

In the Connecticut colony 11 people were tried, convicted and hanged.

Debra Lynne is descended from Mary Sanford.

"She was actually persecuted for familiarity with Satan. The common term would be witch," she says.

Debra says dancing and drinking sack, or sherry, were among the charges for which she was persecuted.

Debra and her daughter, Addie Avery, have been trying for years to get a resolution passed in the Connecticut legislature exonerating the 11 convicted witches.

As a high school project a few years ago Addie researched the subject.

She says people were accused for all sorts of reasons, many of which had nothing to do with witchcraft.

She recalls the story of a particular washerwoman.

"She just had a loud mouth and got into a lot of trouble, and there was a local militia that was practicing and one of the guns went off and accidentally killed one of the men that was practicing. Three years later they accused her of witchcraft and said she was the one that made the gun go off," she explains.

Ariel Sirocco is a board member with the Connecticut Wiccan and Pagan Network.

He calls the witch trials a case of mass hysteria that needs to be addressed.

"It’s ethically and morally right to get those folks name cleared," he says.

Whether the Connecticut legislature will take that step remains to be seen.

Legislation that would have exonerated convicted witches was considered by lawmakers a few years ago.

It was based on Addie's research but it never made it out of committee.
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