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Between the Devil and the HostImagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland$
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Michael Ostling

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 November 2021

Mechanisms of Justice

Mechanisms of Justice

(p.91) 4 Mechanisms of Justice
Between the Devil and the Host

Michael Ostling

Oxford University Press

What factors exacerbated witch-trials in Poland, and what factors tended to limit the number of trials? This chapter shows that the weak, decentralized Polish courts resulted in relatively few trials but in a high rate of execution. Court procedure remained largely accusatory, and the expenses of a trial were considerable. By the same token, once an accuser, usually a nobleman, agreed to fund a trial, he expected and usually got a guilty verdict and a capital sentence. Many town courts sent magistrates to a village to try witches in situ (a practice called deputation): such trials had an especially high execution rate. But jurisdictional conflicts kept the feudal subjects of other noblemen safe from trial, and prevented chain-reaction trials.

Keywords:   accusatory court procedure, expense of trials, deputation, execution rate, jurisdictional conflict, chain-reaction trial

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