הָיוּ בוֹדְקִין אוֹתָן בְּשֶׁבַע חֲקִירוֹת, בְּאֵיזֶה שָׁבוּעַ, בְּאֵיזוֹ שָׁנָה, בְּאֵיזֶה חֹדֶשׁ, בְּכַמָּה בַחֹדֶשׁ, בְּאֵיזֶה יוֹם, בְּאֵיזוֹ שָׁעָה, בְּאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר בְּאֵיזֶה יוֹם, בְּאֵיזוֹ שָׁעָה, בְּאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם. מַכִּירִין אַתֶּם אוֹתוֹ. הִתְרֵיתֶם בּוֹ. הָעוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה, אֶת מִי עָבַד, וּבַמֶּה עָבָד:
The court would examine the witnesses in capital cases with seven interrogations, i.e., interrogatory questions, and they are: In which seven-year period, that is, in which cycle of seven years within a jubilee did the event occur; in which year of the Sabbatical cycle did the event occur; in which month did the event occur; on which day of the month did the event occur; on which day of the week did the event occur; at which hour did the event occur; and in what place did the event occur. Rabbi Yosei says: The court would examine the witnesses with only three interrogations: On which day did the event occur, at which hour, and in what place. They would also ask: Do you recognize him as the man who committed the transgression? Did you warn him? They would then ask the witnesses about the particulars of the incident. For example, in the case of one who is an accused idol worshipper, they ask the witnesses: Whom, i.e., which idol, did he worship, and in what manner did he worship it, and so on.
כָּל הַמַּרְבֶּה בִבְדִיקוֹת, הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח. מַעֲשֶׂה וּבָדַק בֶּן זַכַּאי בְּעֻקְצֵי תְאֵנִים. וּמַה בֵּין חֲקִירוֹת לִבְדִיקוֹת. חֲקִירוֹת, אֶחָד אוֹמֵר אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ, עֵדוּתָן בְּטֵלָה. בְּדִיקוֹת, אֶחָד אוֹמֵר אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ, וַאֲפִלּוּ שְׁנַיִם אוֹמְרִים אֵין אָנוּ יוֹדְעִין, עֵדוּתָן קַיָּמֶת. אֶחָד חֲקִירוֹת וְאֶחָד בְּדִיקוֹת, בִּזְמַן שֶׁמַּכְחִישִׁין זֶה אֶת זֶה, עֵדוּתָן בְּטֵלָה:
With regard to all judges who increase the number of examinations, i.e., who add questions about the details of the event, this is praiseworthy, as this may clarify that the witnesses are lying. An incident occurred and ben Zakkai examined the witnesses by questioning them about the color and shape of the stems of figs in order to unearth a contradiction between the witnesses. The mishna explains: What is the difference between interrogations and examinations? With regard to interrogations, if one of the witnesses says: I do not know the answer, their testimony is void immediately. With regard to examinations, if one says: I do not know the answer, and even if two say: We do not know the answer, their testimony still stands. Both with regard to interrogations and examinations, at a time when the witnesses contradict one another, their testimony is void.
אֶחָד אוֹמֵר בִּשְׁנַיִם בַּחֹדֶשׁ וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה בַחֹדֶשׁ, עֵדוּתָן קַיֶּמֶת, שֶׁזֶּה יוֹדֵעַ בְּעִבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל חֹדֶשׁ וְזֶה אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ בְּעִבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל חֹדֶשׁ. אֶחָד אוֹמֵר בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר בַּחֲמִשָּׁה, עֵדוּתָן בְּטֵלָה. אֶחָד אוֹמֵר בִּשְׁתֵּי שָׁעוֹת וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר בְּשָׁלֹשׁ שָׁעוֹת, עֵדוּתָן קַיֶּמֶת. אֶחָד אוֹמֵר בְּשָׁלֹשׁ וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר בְּחָמֵשׁ, עֵדוּתָן בְּטֵלָה. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, קַיָּמֶת. אֶחָד אוֹמֵר בְּחָמֵשׁ וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר בְּשֶׁבַע, עֵדוּתָן בְּטֵלָה, שֶׁבְּחָמֵשׁ חַמָּה בַמִּזְרָח וּבְשֶׁבַע חַמָּה בַמַּעֲרָב:
The mishna clarifies: If one witness says the event occurred on the second of the month, and one witness says that the event occurred on the third of the month, this is not regarded as a contradiction and their testimony stands, since it is possible to say that this witness knows of the addition of a day to the previous month, and according to his tally the event occurred on the second of the month, and that witness does not know of the addition of a day to the previous month, and according to his tally the event occurred on the third of the month. Their testimony is not considered incongruent. By contrast, if this witness says the event occurred on the third of the month and one witness says the event occurred on the fifth of the month, their testimony is void, as this disparity cannot be attributed to a mere error. Therefore, their testimony is not congruent. Similarly, if one witness says that the event occurred at two hours, i.e., the second hour of the day from sunrise, and one witness says that the event occurred at three hours, their testimony stands, as one could reasonably err this amount in estimating the hour of the day. By contrast, if one says that the event occurred at three hours, and one says that the event occurred at five hours, their testimony is void. Rabbi Yehuda says: Also in this case their testimony stands, as one could reasonably err concerning even this length of time. Rabbi Yehuda adds: But if one says that the event occurred at five hours, and one says that the event occurred at seven hours, their testimony is void. Here the difference is recognizable to all, since at five hours the sun is in the east and at seven the sun is in the west, and one could not err concerning this. Therefore, their testimony is not congruent.
וְאַחַר כָּךְ מַכְנִיסִין אֶת הַשֵּׁנִי וּבוֹדְקִין אוֹתוֹ. אִם נִמְצְאוּ דִבְרֵיהֶם מְכֻוָּנִין, פּוֹתְחִין בִּזְכוּת. אָמַר אֶחָד מִן הָעֵדִים יֶשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת, אוֹ אֶחָד מִן הַתַּלְמִידִים יֶשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו חוֹבָה, מְשַׁתְּקִין אוֹתוֹ. אָמַר אֶחָד מִן הַתַּלְמִידִים יֶשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת, מַעֲלִין אוֹתוֹ וּמוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתוֹ בֵינֵיהֶן, וְלֹא הָיָה יוֹרֵד מִשָּׁם כָּל הַיּוֹם כֻּלּוֹ. אִם יֵשׁ מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו, שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ. וַאֲפִלּוּ הוּא אוֹמֵר יֶשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עַל עַצְמִי זְכוּת, שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ, וּבִלְבַד שֶׁיֵּשׁ מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבָרָיו:
The mishna continues: And afterward, after the court examines the first witness, they bring in the second witness and examine him. If the statements of the witnesses are found to be congruent, the court begins to deliberate the matter. They open the deliberations with an appeal to anyone who can find a reason to acquit the accused. If one of the witnesses said: I can teach a reason to acquit him, or if one of the students sitting before the judges said: I can teach a reason to deem him liable, the judges silence him, i.e., both the witness and the student. The reason is that these people are not allowed to offer information such as this. But if one of the students said: I can to teach a reason to acquit him, they raise him to the seat of the court and seat him among them, and he would not descend from there the entire day, but would sit and participate in their deliberations. If the statement of that student has substance, the court listens to him. And if even the accused says: I can teach a reason to acquit me, the court listens to him and considers his statement, provided that his statement has substance.
אִם מָצְאוּ לוֹ זְכוּת, פְּטָרוּהוּ. וְאִם לָאו, מַעֲבִירִין דִּינוֹ לְמָחָר. הָיוּ מִזְדַּוְּגִין זוּגוֹת זוּגוֹת, וּמְמַעֲטִין בְּמַאֲכָל, וְלֹא הָיוּ שׁוֹתִין יַיִן כָּל הַיּוֹם, וְנוֹשְׂאִין וְנוֹתְנִין כָּל הַלַּיְלָה, וְלַמָּחֳרָת מַשְׁכִּימִין וּבָאִין לְבֵית דִּין. הַמְזַכֶּה אוֹמֵר אֲנִי מְזַכֶּה וּמְזַכֶּה אֲנִי בִמְקוֹמִי, וְהַמְחַיֵּב אוֹמֵר אֲנִי מְחַיֵּב וּמְחַיֵּב אֲנִי בִמְקוֹמִי. הַמְלַמֵּד חוֹבָה מְלַמֵּד זְכוּת, אֲבָל הַמְלַמֵּד זְכוּת אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַחֲזֹר וּלְלַמֵּד חוֹבָה. טָעוּ בְדָּבָר, שְׁנֵי סוֹפְרֵי הַדַּיָּנִין מַזְכִּירִין אוֹתָן. אִם מָצְאוּ לוֹ זְכוּת, פְּטָרוּהוּ. וְאִם לָאו, עוֹמְדִים לְמִנְיָן. שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר מְזַכִּין וְאַחַד עָשָׂר מְחַיְּבִין, זַכַּאי. שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר מְחַיְּבִין וְאַחַד עָשָׂר מְזַכִּין, וַאֲפִלּוּ אַחַד עָשָׂר מְזַכִּין וְאַחַד עָשָׂר מְחַיְּבִין וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ, וַאֲפִלּוּ עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁנַיִם מְזַכִּין אוֹ מְחַיְּבִין וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵר אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ, יוֹסִיפוּ הַדַּיָּנִין. עַד כַּמָּה מוֹסִיפִין, שְׁנַיִם שְׁנַיִם עַד שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד. שְׁלֹשִׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה מְזַכִּין וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וַחֲמִשָּׁה מְחַיְּבִין, זַכַּאי. שְׁלֹשִׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה מְחַיְּבִין וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וַחֲמִשָּׁה מְזַכִּין, דָּנִין אֵלּוּ כְּנֶגֶד אֵלּוּ עַד שֶׁיִּרְאֶה אֶחָד מִן הַמְחַיְּבִין דִּבְרֵי הַמְזַכִּין:
And if the court found it fit to acquit him during the deliberations, as all or a majority of the judges agreed to acquit him, they excuse him. But if a majority does not find it fit to acquit him, they delay his verdict to the following day, and they then assign pairs of judges to discuss the matter with each other. They would minimize their food intake and they would not drink wine all day. And they would deliberate all night, and the following day they would arise early and come to court and then vote again and tally the votes of the judges. One who yesterday was of the opinion to acquit the defendant says: I said to acquit, and I acquit in my place, i.e., I stand by my statement to acquit. And one who yesterday was of the opinion to deem him liable says: I said to deem him liable, and I deem him liable in my place. One who yesterday taught a reason to deem him liable may then teach a reason to acquit, but one who yesterday taught a reason to acquit may not then teach a reason to deem him liable. If they erred in the matter, as one of the judges forgot what he had said the previous day, two judges’ scribes, who recorded the statements of the judges, remind him. If the court then found it fit to acquit him unanimously, they excuse him, and if not all of the judges determine to acquit, they stand to count the vote. If twelve judges vote to acquit him and eleven judges deem him liable, he is acquitted. The mishna continues: In a case where twelve judges deem him liable and eleven judges acquit; or even if eleven judges acquit and eleven deem him liable and one judge says: I do not know; or even if twenty-two judges acquit or deem him liable and one judge says: I do not know, the judge who said he does not know is disregarded, and the judges add additional judges to the court until they reach a definitive ruling. And how many judges do they add? They add pairs of two judges each time they do not reach a ruling until there are seventy-one judges, but no more than that. At that point, if thirty-six judges acquit and thirty-five judges deem him liable, he is acquitted. If thirty-six judges deem him liable and thirty-five judges acquit, they continue to deliberate the matter, these judges against those judges, until one of those who deems him liable sees the validity of the statements of those who acquit and changes his position, as the court does not condemn a defendant to death by a majority of one judge.