Torah: Tookie’s Execution Was A Miscarriage of Justice

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Holy Hyrax says:

    Since when do non-Jewish nations need to adhere to what the Torah says? And if you are arguing that it is against the Noahide laws, how many people, let alone nations know what on earth the Noahide laws are? How many of them know what the standard of evidence should be according to the Noahhide laws are? I’m sure the vast majority of Jews don’t even know. These kind of arguments, saying there was a breach of the Torah law, when speaking about non-Jewish laws and courts tend to border on silly.

  2. DovBear says:

    This is the best thing I have ever read on Cross Currents. I enjoyed every word. Well done.

  3. Stephen B. Rozen says:

    The problems mentioned by Rabbi Adlerstein in this case are not unique to capital cases, but rather show some of the problems in the U.S. legal system (I’m not advocating that there is necessarily any better system).

    The U.S. legal system is very frequently involved in technicalities and procedure — as a method of achieving justice — but many times adhering to these technical procedures even when they damage the justice we strive to reach.

    But how is this case any different from others, where one might be convicted and imprisoned, possibly for decades, only to be found innocent, and released, later on? Some (not myself) would advocate that spending 20-30 years in a maximum security prison (we’ve all heard the horror stories of what goes on there…) is worse than receiving the death penalty. The “only” difference, and I’m not saying it is a small one, is that the death penalty is irreversable. But time spent in jail is still time spent in jail — be it a week, a year or 20 to 30 of them.

    Thus, the problem seems to be in *how* and *based upon what* we convict our suspected criminals. Judaism teaches us that “din prutah k’din me’ah” (or rather loosely: you should not be more careful with someone/something just because it is more valuable) — we cannot accept that those accused of “lesser” crimes should be easier to convict and that those accused of more “heinous” crimes should be harder to convict, simply because the punishment might be greater (in this case, the death penalty).

    If we have a problem, and I believe we do, then it needs to be taken care of system-wide.

    But I am unwilling to accept these arguments only when death row is about to create an occupancy. Doing so only serves to undermine the whole legal system. Until we are able to refine it, we must abide by it. The alternative is pure chaos.

  4. Milchemet Mitzvah says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    That was a phenominal post that addressed each of the issues quite thorougly. The ONLY clarification that might need to be made, is that the argument is NOT whether he should/should not have been executed according to Torah law, because we fundamentally agree that when it comes to non-Jews and to Jews, with limts, we say “Dina d’malchusa Dina”. HOWEVER, what the guidelines of our Mesora can dictate for us is how much we should support a particular policy and in this case you offer a flawless argument that we should not support it. I find myself guilty of the offense of “rushing to counter” hetero dox Rabbis and I believe that you clearly demonstrated why not to.

  5. Nachum says:

    In 1981, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l wrote a letter to the then governor of New York stating the Orthodox position on capital punishment (printed in Igros Moshe Ch.M. 2:68). He writes that a society has the right to execute criminals in order to protect itself from lawlessness even without following the normal guidelines of Halacha (i.e. eye-witnesses, hasra, semicha, the Bais Hamikdash, etc.). According to Rav Moshe then, the state of California has the right to execute criminals even without the normal requirement of one eye-witness (in the case of Bnei Noach). If the state felt that executing Tookie Williams was necessary for *hatzlas hamadina* then according to Rav Moshe, it has the halachic right.

  6. bvw says:

    I’m wondering how the Halacha regarding capital trials under Noahide laws is impacted by California’s two-stage trial system. As I understand, in the first stage guilt is determined without reference to the penalty. Then once found guilty, a second trial stage is held with different (and looser) rules of testimony and evidence whereby the penalty is determined.

Pin It on Pinterest