Casey Anthony verdict reflects high Biblical standard for death penalty


By Mark Ellis 

Amid the anger and outrage over a verdict that seems unjust, it bears noting that the Bible sets a very high bar for convicting any person for the crime of murder and sentencing them to death.

Caylee Anthony


Several jurors who sat on the Anthony case maintain the government failed to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Arguably, this standard reflects the Bible’s value of seeking justice for the victim, while avoiding a rush to judgment against the accused. 

In the Book of Numbers, Moses sets forth the principle that “Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” (Numbers 35:30) 

Moses repeats the standard in the Book of Deuteronomy: “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” (Deut.17:6) 

Sadly, there were no witnesses willing or able to testify regarding the tragic death of Caylee Anthony. Are actual witnesses still needed today? It should be noted that advances with DNA evidence may override the need for actual witnesses. But there was no DNA evidence in this case linking Casey to her daughter’s death. 

The presence of chloroform, Caylee’s hair, and a suspicious odor emanating from the trunk of Casey’s car seem like compelling circumstantial evidence. Her lies, her suspicious behavior, and a mountain of other evidence all argued persuasively to her guilt and left many thunderstruck by the verdict. 

One juror suggests that a horrible accident happened to Caylee that was covered up by the family. Was this an accident or was this a carefully premeditated murder? 

Whichever it was, a fury has been unleashed by some wanting vengeance. Amidst this highly charged atmosphere, Casey’s life is at risk. 

The Bible also has an answer for this situation. God set aside “Cities of Refuge” for one who “kills his neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought.” 

People guilty of manslaughter could flee to these designated cities for safety; otherwise the “avenger of blood” might pursue them in a rage and kill them. 

But God’s Word also has a warning for those who seek refuge under false pretenses. “If a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him, assaults and kills him, and then flees to one of these cities, the elders of his town shall send for him, bring him back from the city, and hand him over to the avenger of blood to die.” (Deut.19:11-12) 

We may never know if Caylee’s death arose by accident or malice aforethought, but Casey may need a place of refuge until the public’s fury dissipates and the truth is fully known.


  1. Two thoughts. First, “witness” in Numbers 35:30 and Deuteronomy 17:6 refers to _evidence_. The word there is not necessarily eyewitnesses, not necessarily even people. It’s used repeatedly of objects.

    Second, judicial law in Scripture is peppered with instruction on how to use circumstantial evidence to make inferences toward convictions. There are dozens upon dozens of examples, with Exodus 22:2,3 probably the clearest relative to the death penalty.

    I have also blogged about this issue at

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