Lessons for Friday, 28 Adar I – Four Mitzvot 282, 283, 229, 228

Issuing a Capital Verdict by a One-Vote Majority

Negative Commandment 282 (Digest)

“You shall not follow the majority for evil”—Exodus 23:2.

It is forbidden for a judge in a capital case to follow the majority decisions if the majority is only one vote greater than the minority. I.e., if there’s disagreement between the judges whether an individual is deserving of capital punishment, and the group of judges that wishes to convict is one vote more than the group that wishes to acquit—it is forbidden to execute the defendant.

Negative Commandment 283 (Digest)
Independent Judicial Opinions

“You shall not respond concerning a lawsuit to follow”—Exodus 23:2.

A judge is forbidden to rely upon the reasoning presented by a fellow judge, to convict or convict a defendant, without himself examining and analyzing the issue based on the case’s foundations. He may not say, “I’m satisfied to simply agree with the opinion of the other great judge.” Rather, each judge must state the opinion that he independently arrived at.

Another few laws are included in this mitzvah (all derived from the same words of the verse) [all these rules apply in capital cases only]:

  • One who originally argued in favor of the defendant may not afterwards argue to incriminate [though he may personally change his mind and vote to convict].
  • When hearing a capital case, the judges must open the proceedings with words in defense of the defendant.
  • If exculpatory evidence is found after a guilty verdict has been handed down, the verdict is discarded, and the court reconvenes to consider the new evidence. The inverse is not true—once a person is vindicated, he cannot be retried.
  • When the time comes for the judges to state their arguments [for or against the defendant], we do not start with the greatest of the judges [lest the others be influenced by his opinion].

Positive Commandment 229 (Digest)
Execution by Stoning

“And you shall stone them with stones that they die”—Deuteronomy 22:24.

Transgressors of certain sins are to be executed via lapidation.

Positive Commandment 228 (Digest)
Execution by Burning

“They shall be burnt with fire both he and they”—Leviticus 20:14.

Transgressors of certain sins are to be executed via burning [of their innards].


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