The last Salem witch is finally pardoned - 329 years later

A school teacher at the memorial for the Salem witches  (AP)
A school teacher at the memorial for the Salem witches (AP)

The last Salem “witch” to be exonerated has been pardoned more than 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft as part of the Salem Witch Trials.

On Thursday, Massachusetts lawmakers exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr of witchcraft, making her the last “witch” to be pardoned.

Between 1692 and 1693, dozens of women were hanged for witchcraft and hundreds more were accused of being “witches” at the trials in Salem.

The accusations largely stemmed from fear and superstition of strangers and diseases, as well as scapegoating for other ills, according to the Witches of Massachusetts Bay historical association.

Johnson was side-lined in previous efforts to pardon the Salem “witches” because she did not have children or descendants to fight her case, the historical association said.

The 22-year-old was sentenced to death at the height of the Salem Witch Trials but was never executed.

“We will never be able to change what happened to victims like Elizabeth but at the very least can set the record straight,” said Democrat Sen Diana DiZoglio, who led the calls to pardon Johnson.

“Elizabeth’s story and struggle continue to greatly resonate today” Ms DiZoglio said. “While we’ve come a long way since the horrors of the witch trials, women today still all too often find their rights challenged and concerns dismissed.”

A teacher at the Massachusetts school whose students began campaigning for Johnson Jr’s pardon told reporters the case was “a long-overlooked issue of justice for this wrongly convicted woman.”

“Passing this legislation will be incredibly impactful on their understanding of how important it is to stand up for people who cannot advocate for themselves and how strong of a voice they actually have,” said teacher Carrie LaPierre.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.