The court of oyer and terminer is a higher criminal court, and has cognizance of all crimes and offences whatever.
A certain number of them hold courts of chancery, general sessions, oyer and terminer, and an orphans' court; the six together constitute the supreme court, but the judge from whose decision appeal is made may not hear the appealed case unless the appeal is made at his own instance.
The excitement spread rapidly, many more were accused, and, within four months, hundreds were arrested, and many were tried before commissioners of oyer and terminer (appointed on the 27th of May 1692, including Samuel Sewall, q.v., of Boston, and three inhabitants of Salem, one being Jonathan Corwin); nineteen were hanged,' and one was pressed to death in September for refusing to plead when he was accused.
At the close of the colonial era there were a court of chancery, a supreme court, circuit courts and courts of oyer and terminer which were held in the several counties by the justices of the supreme court, a court of common pleas and a court of sessions in each county, and courts held by justices of the peace in the several towns.
The judges of the common pleas are also judges of the courts of oyer and terminer, quarter sessions of the peace and general gaol delivery, and the orphans' courts, although there are separate orphans' courts in the counties (ten in 1909) having a population of more than one hundred and fifty thousand.