A Noahide named John Adams once said that, due to his religious beliefs, "I almost had to change my career" due to being a criminal attorney. One problem Adams would face as a prosecutor is using circumstantial evidence to convict defendants. As a solution, he decided to "switch sides" and become a defense attorney. The article appears here:


Was Adams's actions necessary? Can Noahides work at DA offices that obtain convictions through circumstantial evidence?


I've only received one answer so far, and it confuses me: The answer seems to suggest that circumstantial evidence can result in punishment, just not capital punishment. However, Devarim 19:15 seems to suggest all convictions require two or three witnesses. Then again, Leviticus 5:1 may allow for "witnesses" to include forensics experts, at least if "knowing" a matter includes "knowing" from examining forensic evidence. I would like some more information on this, especially since the answer affects whether or not Noahides can even serve as criminal prosecutors in many jurisdictions.

3 Answers 3


In Leviticus 5:1 it states: “and he is a witness - either he saw, or he knew”

The Gemara (Shevuos 34a) learns from here, that there is a case where it is possible to rely on a witness who knows without seeing

An example of this would be, in a case where a man was seen entering a room with only one person inside, and came out injured - and we don’t assume that he injured himself (Ibid 46b)

When it comes to capital punishment, according to Tosafos (Ibid 34a), only if the man was murdered in a way that he couldn’t have done it himself, can the other person in the room be convicted to death, but there are those (such as the Rambam and the Yad Rama) who disagree even in such a case, and hold that whith regards to capital punishment, the actual murder must be seen

With regards to Noahide laws, the Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 82) writes, that it would seem that the same would apply to Gentiles

Nevertheless, Maimonides (in the second chapter of laws of a murder) writes, that although the court may not sentence a murderer to death, based on circumstantial evidence, nevertheless, they are still obligated to give an appropriate punishment

  • Thanks for your response. Does the position that courts can inflict a lesser punishment, but not death, without two or three witnesses contradict Devarim 19:15? This passage seems to suggest that all crimes require two or three witnesses, whether the punishment is death or something else. Maybe I'm misunderstanding its teaching. Do any Torah passages suggest that a reduced sentence is acceptable when less than two witnesses are available?
    – The Editor
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 14:03

Based on the article you referenced I understand that Rabbi Kagnoff was answering your question.

Jews are bound by two legal systems: the Torah law and the secular law. The Torah law consists of the commandments and regulations given by God and interpreted by the rabbis. The secular law is the law of the country where Jews live. The principle of "Dina Dmalchoscah" requires Jews to obey the secular law as long as it does not contradict the Torah law.

The Torah law also applies to non-Jews, who are expected to follow the seven Noahide laws, one of which is to establish a just legal system. There is a debate among rabbis whether this means a legal system based on Torah values or any legal system that maintains law and order. Most rabbis today seem to favor the latter view.

John Adams was following the secular law in his profession. He obtained evidence according to the rules of the United States legal system. He did not violate the Torah law or the Noahide law by doing so. In fact, according to most, he fulfilled the Noahide law of establishing a just legal system. However, he felt uneasy about his role and decided to change.


I've been wondering about a similar thing for a long time, can a jewish woman be a judge in secular courts since halachically women can't be judges for Noahides? I don't see a heter, but I do see frum women who are judges so maybe there is some heter.

I think he was correct to change jobs. A prosecutor is in a rough spot for many reasons beyond use of circumstantial evidence. Chief among those reasons is that the penalty for violating any of the 7 Noahide laws is death-- if he's not trying to get the death penalty for adulterers/thieves then he's violating the laws of dinim himself. (Whether according to the Rambam and Ramban who debate if dinim requires Torah law or to create a system of just laws.) However, R' Moshe has a famous teshuva to the governor of NY telling him it's okay to remove the death penalty. He does not explain his reasoning, but according to that R' Moshe al pi the Ramban that the mitzva requires a system of just laws then maybe he's okay sticking it out in the DA office.

Additionally, I don't think he's allowed to prosecute Jews outside beis din.

The question from his perspective may be if it's better for him to help with improper dinim then leave the whole system to fall apart? I think the attitude he has of not caring about his clients guilt may fly in the face of the mitzvah of dinim but it's not clear to me.

  • Thank you for your reply. So even if Noahides aren't under Torah, they must prescribe the death penalty for violation of any of the Seven Noahide Laws? Is that correct?
    – The Editor
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 0:20
  • @TheEditor If I understand you correctly, yes. See Rambam Hilchos Shoftim Chapter 9 Halacha 14, where he says "dinim" only requires judging the other six Noahide laws (and not an adherence to any other law of the Torah) and the penalty for violating any of the 7 laws is death.
    – alephbeis
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 1:57

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