What are the rules of legal procedure under Biblical law?

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Answered Questions

There are a lot of rules which can be shown or inferred from Biblical law, including:

  1. Establishment of jurisdictional responsibility: Deut. 21:1-2.
  2. The requirement of a public trial before a judge or judges: Num. 35:12, 24-25, 30, Deut. 16:18-20, Deut. 19:18.
  3. The requirement of at least two witnesses to convict (which entails the presumption of innocence): Num. 35:30, Deut. 17:6, Deut. 19:15.
  4. The requirement that the probative (stone-throwing) witnesses be "righteous" (i.e. blameless) with respect to criminal law and the known facts of the case (e.g. what Jesus was implying about the witnesses in the case of the woman taken in the act of adultery). Known or suspected criminals cannot witness against a defendant: Exod. 23:1, Deut. 19:16, Hos. 4:14, John 8:7.[1]
  5. The insufficiency of indirect (i.e. circumstantial) evidence to convict: Deut 17:7 (evidence doesn't throw stones, persons who are witnesses do).[2]
  6. The responsibility of the witnesses to throw the first stones (in a capital case): Deut. 17:7. They must have enough certainty of their testimony that they are willing to risk committing murder if they are wrong. Therefore, witnesses can never be forced to testify under Biblical law.
  7. The requirement of equivalent punishment of false witnesses, including the mandatory death penalty for false witness[3] in capital cases: Deut. 19:16-21.
  8. Favoring persons in judgement is prohibited: Deut. 16:19.
  9. Limitation of legal liability to equivalent penalties (the "eye for an eye" principle).[4]
  10. No vicarious punishment: Deut. 24:16.
  11. The right to appeal errors of law, errors of procedure, or corruption to a higher judicial body: Deut. 17:8-13.
  12. The right of the community to nullify a conviction by refusing to participate in the execution (similar to "jury nullification"): Exod. 23:1-2, 7, Deut. 13:9, 17:7, 21:21, 22:21, Lev 24:14.
  1. For more information see Didn't Jesus disregard the law of the Hebrew Scriptures when dealing with the woman taken in adultery? (John 8:3-11)
  2. For more information see What if DNA or other indirect evidence point to a person being guilty, but there are no probative witnesses?
  3. False witness is a big problem in modern "justice" systems that do not properly punish those who break the Ninth Commandment.
  4. For more information see Does Biblical law require a literal "eye for an eye"?