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No oath needed for child witness

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A child who is called to testify in court must show she understands the difference between truth and lies, and must promise to tell the truth. But, unlike adult witnesses, a child under 10 doesn’t have to take an oath, says a state appeals court.

In a ruling last week, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld a South Bay teenager’s molestation conviction based on the testimony of a girl who was 4 at the time of the incident in 2009 and was 7 when she testified the Juvenile Court trial.

The girl told her mother that a 14-year-old boy, Jerry, a member of her extended family who lived in Fremont, had touched her between her legs after locking the doors at a home in Milpitas where they were visiting. When the case went to trial in 2013, rather than swearing the girl in as a witness, a Santa Clara County prosecutor asked the girl a series of questions.

First he asked her what color shirt he was wearing, and the girl correctly said it was “kind of bluish and purplish.” If he said it was white, the prosecutor said, would that be the truth or a lie? A lie, she responded. And is it good or bad to tell a lie? Bad, the girl said, and in response to the next question, she promised to tell the truth. After a little more Q&A, the prosecutor, without objection from Jerry’s lawyer, submitted the issue to Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Lee, who found the girl competent to testify. 

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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