Oath and Affirmation in the Court: Thoughts on the Power of a Sworn Promise

Nadine Farid

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What power lies in an oath? As children, we augmented our promises: crossing our hearts and hoping to die; swearing on our mothers’ lives.  Our word, it seemed, was understood to be insufficient; we knew as much, and accepted it.  The avowed threat of harm to self or another was voluntarily hewn to us, a layer of protection, however paradoxical. . . . The significance given a promise when accompanied by a swearing on the Bible stirs us still as adults.  There is a particular import, a gravitas, to such an oath: a message inherent therein that mandates a sense of trust, be it in oneself to fulfill the promise made or, if we are observing the oath or benefiting from its guarantee, in the oath-taker to do the same.
40 New Eng. L. Rev. 555

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