Before testifying, all witnesses are required by some solemn act as an oath or affirmation to evidence an intention to speak the truth.70 The oath impresses upon the witness the obligation to tell the truth and the danger of a perjury penalty.71 The statutory form of oath in Delaware has the witness place his or her right hand upon a Bible and swear upon the “Holy Evangels Of Almighty God.”72 A person may also be permitted to swear by raising up his or her right hand and swearing “by the ever-living God, the searcher of all hearts, that etc.,” and stating at the end of the oath “as I shall answer to God at the Great Day.”73 A person conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath may be permitted, instead of swearing solemnly, sincerely and truly, to declare and affirm to the truth of the matters to be testified.74 A person believing in any other than the Christian religion may be sworn according to the peculiar ceremonies, if any, of such religion.75
A witness who insolently refuses to be sworn as a witness in any court proceeding may be held in contempt of court.76
70. D.R.E. 603. See also Rocker v. State, 240 A.2d 141, 143 (Del. 1968); State v. Roane, Cr. A. No. 1N85-12-0262, slip op. at 13, Babiarz, J. (Del. Super. Jan. 24, 1992); Ald. & M. Ct. R. 14(e).
71. Keys v. State, 337 A.2d 18, 25 (Del. 1975) (Quillen, J., concurring).
72. 10 Del. C. § 5321.
73. 10 Del. C. § 5322.
74. 10 Del. C. § 5323; Ch. Ct. R. 43(d); Super. Ct. Civ. R. 43(c); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 43(c); Fain. Ct. Civ. R. 43(d); J.P. Ct. Civ. R: 17(c).
75. 10 Del. C. § 5324.
76. 11 Del. C. § 1271(4); Smith v. State, 560 A.2d 1004, 1008 (Del. 1989); Pitts v. State, 421 A.2d 901, 904 (Del. 1980).
© 2010 David L. Finger