The title question says it all, here's some background as to why I am asking: I just thought about something and wanted to check with the experts at Mi Yodeya who have learned Makkot or the relevant halachot.

In general, the conditions required to convict in a murder case are so steep that it would take a particularly "murderous court" to achieve a successful conviction even twice in 70 years (Makkot 1:10).

What happens to people who murdered someone with witnesses, but something like the witnesses failing to warn him occurs (not sure if that applies to murder cases?), so he isn't put to death? Is there any other form of penalty, such as exile*?

If not, if the murderer is just released back into the public, this is a bit difficult, because doesn't Sefer HaChinuch mitzvah 410 state that one of the reasons the manslaughterer is made to go into exile is in order to give the family of the victim peace, as they do not have to look upon their relative's killer day in day out. The Torah seeks to create a pleasant atmosphere (not to mention a safe one, without known murders running around!)

What of cases of actual murder? Everyone knows he did it, he's been spared on a technicality and released, and he did it on purpose so it's a much worse situation.

So, what exactly happens to people who murdered but were not convicted on a technicality?

* Even that would require some sort of explanation as much of the laws of exile to cities of refuge is based around the fact that the person simply made a grave mistake and isn't a murderous person.


1 Answer 1


Someone who does not meet the requirements of the Beis Din on order to get the death penalty has one of two options; either killed by the king (or Beis Din acting extrajudicially) or make his life a misery as we see in The Rambam where he makes the following statements:

וְכָל אֵלּוּ הָרַצְחָנִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁאֵינָן מְחֻיָּבִין מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין. אִם רָצָה מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָרְגָם בְּדִין הַמַּלְכוּת וְתַקָּנַת הָעוֹלָם הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. וְכֵן אִם רָאוּ בֵּית דִּין לְהָרְגָם בְּהוֹרָאַת שָׁעָה אִם הָיְתָה הַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לְכָךְ יֵשׁ לָהֶם רְשׁוּת כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיִּרְאוּ: הֲרֵי שֶׁלֹּא הֲרָגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ וְלֹא הָיְתָה הַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לְכָךְ לְחַזֵּק הַדָּבָר הֲרֵי בֵּית דִּין חַיָּבִין מִכָּל מָקוֹם לְהַכּוֹתָם מַכָּה רַבָּה הַקְּרוֹבָה לְמִיתָה לְאָסְרָם בְּמָצוֹר וּבְמָצוֹק שָׁנִים רַבּוֹת וּלְצַעֲרָן בְּכָל מִינֵי צַעַר כְּדֵי לְהַפְחִיד וּלְאַיֵּם עַל שְׁאָר הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר לָהֶם לְפוּקָה וּלְמִכְשׁוֹל וְיֹאמַר הֲרֵינִי מְסַבֵּב לַהֲרֹג אוֹיְבַי כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעָשָׂה פְּלוֹנִי וְאֶפָּטֵר:

When a Jewish king desires to slay any of these murderers and the like who are not liable for execution by the court - by virtue of his regal authority, in order to perfect society, he has the license. Similarly, if the court desires to execute them as a result of a immediate fiat, because this was required at the time, they have the license to do as they see fit. If the king did not execute them, nor did the court deem the time as such to require strengthening the strictures against murder, it should nevertheless have the murderer beaten with severe blows - so that he is on the verge of death - and imprisoned, deprived and afflicted with all types of discomfort in order to strike fear and awe into the hearts of other wicked men, so that this death should not be a stumbling block and a snag for them, causing them to say: "Let me arrange to have my enemies killed the way so-and-so did, and I will not suffer the consequences."

  • 1
    Thanks for the edit. So, after all this, what on earth is the Mishna trying to impress us with that "it hardly happened" that death sentences are meted out? Is it in conjunction with the notion that there were seldom any murders?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 11:31
  • And perhaps a larger question - are there Any requirements that must be met for these extrajudicial punishments, or is it just at the whim of a king or the court’s discretion? What prevents it to being applied to someone who did in fact kill unintentionally or by accident or by being mislead or through some other kind of error or maybe even by force? What counts as a ‘technicality’ in this question and what doesn’t? Maybe not having witnesses is just a technicality, but then how can the court be sure they even have the right guy? Or that he meant to do what he did or was aware?
    – user9806
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 13:48
  • 1
    @user9806 please write this as a formal question, this will be an interesting discussion Commented May 18, 2023 at 15:13

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