Crime and punishment

Judaism teaches that criminals must be treated fairly. An accused person must have a fair trial by a court.

The 36 most serious crimes (including adultery, sodomy, idolatry, witchcraft, and murder) carry one of four different types of death penalty: stoning, burning, beheading, or strangling

However, the rabbis limited the possibility of capital punishment. A potential criminal had to be warned of the possible punishment before committing the crime. If all the judges agreed on a verdict it was felt likely that they were prejudiced and that the verdict was wrong. Therefore it was almost impossible to reach a death verdict.

If a death verdict was finally reached, every effort had to be made to have it reversed.

A final, less severe, penalty was makkat mardut, or disciplinary lashes.

Jewish law tried to limit the punishment and safeguard the criminal so that violence and suffering is kept to a minimum.

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