Legal case: Berry, Joanes; Plymouth, October 29, 1649

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"Sodomy" charge

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The Plymouth Court records reported a "sodomy" charge by Richard Berry against Teage Joanes. After hearing "what can be said in the case for present" the court held the case over for a further hearing at the next session, five months away, taking money bonds to insure that the accuser, the accused, and their witnesses would then appear.[1]

On March 6, 1650, the Plymouth court records reported the outcome of Richard Berry's charge:

Whereas ... Richard Berry accused Teage Joanes of sodomy, & other unclean practices also with Sara, the wife of Hugh Norman, & for that cause the said parties were both bound over to answer to this Court, & accordingly appeared; the said Richard Berry acknowledged before the Court that he did wrong the aforesaid Teage Joanes in both the aforesaid particulars, & had born false witness against him upon oath; and for the same the said Richard Berry was sentenced to be whipped at the post, which accordingly was performed.

False witness for the purpose of taking a man's life was not yet a capital crime under Plymouth law or Berry might have received a death sentence.

Three years after the above hearing, on June 9, 1653, the Plymouth Colony court records reported:

An order was ... passed from the Court requiring that Teag Joanes and Richard Berry, and others with them, be caused to part their uncivil living together, as they will answer for it.

Six years later, on October 6, 1659, a "Richard Beare" (probably the same "Richard Berry"), of Marshfield, was cited in the Plymouth Colony court records as

being a grossly scandalous person, debauched, having been formerly convicted of filthy, obscene practices, and for the same by the Court sentenced.

The records stated that "Beare," who had fallen afoul of the law, was summoned by the court to receive personally the sentence of "disfranchisement" from Plymouth, but he had not appeared. The court ordered that Beare "be disfranchised of his freedom" in the colony (banished and deprived of rights).

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  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 93-94, citing Shurtleff, Plymouth, vol. 2, pp. 146-47, 148; vol. 3, p. 37,176-77.

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