I knew that Torah allows for the death penalty, but according to the sources cited by Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, Stanley Tookie Williams’ life should have been spared.
But this isn’t the usual argument.
According to Adlerstein’s argument, Williams should have been spared because the testimony was given by fellons, and according to Noahide Law, fellons cannnot testify against someone and be considered credible witnesses.
By way of explanation, according to Jewish theology, all of humanity is divided into two general classifications with respect to God’s commandments.
All non-Jews are referred to as Bnei Noah, or the children of Noah, and the Jews are referred to as Bnei Yisrael, or the Children of Israel.
Jewish theology holds that non-Jews are obligated to follow seven laws, or categories of laws.
These laws are: 1. Shefichat damim – Do not
2. Gezel – Do not steal.
3. Avodah zarah – Do not worship false gods/idols.
4. Gilui arayot – Do not be sexually immoral (forbidden sexual acts are traditionally interpreted to include
sex acts and
5. Birkat Hashem – Do not
6. Dinim – Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair justice in judging offenders and uphold the principles of the other six.
7. Ever min ha-chai – Do not eat anything of the body of an unslaughtered animal
There is disagreement among the rabbinic sources as to how the laws are to be subdivided, but these are the basics.
According to the legal code of the Bnei Noah, murder is definitely a capital offense.
This is based on Genesis 9:5: “But your blood, of your souls, I will demand an account; from the hand of every beast I will demand it, and from the hand of man, from the hand of each man, his brother, I will demand the soul of man.” (Judaica Press Complete Tanach).
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi, one of the foremost commentators on the Bible and Talmud), comments on Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 56B that the only punishment meted out by courts of Bnei Noah for criminal offenses is the death penalty.
However, according to Mishneh Torah, Laws of Witnesses, Chapter 9, Law 1, known transgressors, (I.E., convicted fellons), cannot testify against the accused.
Furthermore, the only witness testimony allowed is that of eye-witnesses to the actual crimes.
In Williams’ case, the testimony regarding three of the victims was concerning Williams bragging in jail about having committed the crime.
Given the fact that the witnesses were all convicted fellons, and that none of the trial witnesses actually witnessed the crime being committed, Tookie would have gotten off on a technicality.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, however views the case differently, and posits the following.
He points out that, even though the witnesses were fellons, they would have had no reason to point the finger at him, which would make them impartial witnesses.
He also points out that a modern Beit Din (rabbinical court) would most certainly take in to account “things like ballistics evidence (according
to experts, at least one of the shells at the triple murder could have emerged from no other shotgun on earth than the one owned by Williams) in those
areas where it is permitted leverage, like its own penalties in times of lawlessness.”
I definitely plan to research this further.