Two timelines. One American place. History informs the present in this Brechtian intersection between Salem's infamous witch trials and the modern police state. The Curse of Giles Corey traces the original sin of American policing to a devastating event with echoes in today.
The year is 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts and GILES COREY (60s) stands mute. At least that’s what DEPUTY DESMOND (30s) tells SHERIFF CROWLEY (40s). The cantankerous old man is the latest villager accused of witchcraft, but the only one that refuses to submit a plea, robbing the court of its authority to try him and govern lawfully. Crowley must find a way to make Corey speak, but he’d prefer to get back to gardening his petunias, even if they are a vain enjoyment. There’s only one thing to do: press Corey. Crowell orders his deputy to strip Corey, lie him flat, place a board across his body, and apply stones in increasing weight until he submits a plea.
In the present day office of the Salem Sheriff, DEPUTY DOYLE (30s) interrogates a suspect, MONTE SINCLAIR (20s), whom he encountered near a murder crime scene. The deputy tells the suspect a story, “The Curse of Giles Corey,” which he claims is the reason every Salem Sheriff has met an untimely demise since Corey’s death. The Sheriff position has been vacant for years. This is why Doyle is surprised when CARLY CRUZ (40s) enters and presents herself as the new Sheriff.
The new Sheriff is a haunted woman. She only took this position after getting let go of her policing gig following the death of a young man in Chicago. Now she’s in fucking Salem. In any case, Richter is determined to start anew. She wants to be a good cop. She is a good cop. She just made that one mistake. Which is why she can’t stand this bad cop bullshit from Doyle. She tells the deputy to stop resorting to shady interrogation methods and let the suspect go.
Back in 1692, Deputy Desmond and Sheriff Crowley observe the results of Corey’s pressing. They’re smelly. Privately, Crowley admits to Corey that he does not believe in witches, but he demands Corey submit a plea. The deputy adds weight to the load, but Corey remains silent. Finally, he speaks, “More weight.”
Sheriff Cruz admits to the Monte that she does not think he is guilty of the crime. Nevertheless, she is hesitant to let him go without an alibi to shield him from a potential mob. Despite her reservations, she has no legal authority to hold him so she lets him go.
Back in 1692, Deputy Desmond tells Sheriff Crowley that Giles Corey has cursed Crowley. The Sheriff discovers an unnatural infestation in his petunia bed. Is Giles Corey sending out his spirit from beneath the stones? He calls out to God, then realizes he’s made himself vulnerable by indulging in petunias. He rips them from the earth. The deputy calls for help. Crowley’s been witched.
In the present, Doyle drags an unresponsive Monte into the station after discovering him beaten in the alley. Carly finds out a video of the murder is going viral. The suspect looks like Monte. Carly takes the opportunity to search Monte against his will and finds evidence that may link him to the murder.
Deputy Desmond tells Crowley that Corey is ready to submit a plea. Relieved, Crowley goes to the site where Corey lies beneath rock, but instead of submitting a plea Corey curses the Sheriff publicly. In an effort to stop Corey’s curse, he beats his head in with a rock. Corey expires.
Deputy Desmond and Crowley continue their work in the town, but strange phenomenon continue to haunt and provoke the Sheriff, who denies they are strange in any way. Carly claims that Monte attacked her and questions whether it’s possible to be a good police officer.
Planting new petunias in the garden, Crowley tells the Deputy that he does not believe in curses but he does believe in witches. As the sheriff’s logic begins to crumble, Desmond confesses that he heard Crowley tell Corey he did not believe in witches. He accuses the Sheriff of lying and approaches with a knife.
Carly is inadvertently killed by Doyle’s no sneaking machine. Deputy Desmond buries the bodies of Corey and Crowley in the same grave. Monte admits his part in the murder. Doyle lets Monte go and reconsiders the no-sneaking machine. In a flashback, Desmond gives drink to Giles Corey.