Thank you for articulating that: I tried to write something similar, but couldn’t find a way to express it concisely and coherently.
I suspect these kinds of public, formalised, somewhat melodramatic performances were even more important when literacy was less common: if there was a land dispute when records were slight, incomplete or entirely absent, it helped to be able to turn out the local greybeards and quiz them about whether they remembered the current lord’s grandfather handing over the ceremonial sod of earth (or whatever) to the claimant’s great-grandfather.
It does seem like a nice gesture on the part of the judge, but I ponder that it’s only a matter of time before something happens to a verdict because someone lets slip there wasn’t any artificial sweetener available for the coffee so people had to use sugar instead, or something.
That’s why I referred to it as being ‘medieval thinking’ upthread.
The ceremony and the attendant message that this is important and the community expects you to tell the truth here is what is supposed to reinforce the desired effect.
It’s all part of the same apparatus that means we have courts set up in a certain way, with certain bits of regalia (we have the Crown coat of arms, the US has its seal and/or a flag, etc.), the court building tends to look like a church or temple, the judge tends to be elevated, possibly in a kind of pulpit and may or may not wear a silly outfit.
The New Jersey Supreme Court banned the practice in its jurisdiction as a result of this case.
Interestingly, their Rules Committee also recommended that jurors all provide a neutral non-religious affirmation in future.
The report runs through most of the discussion we’ve had here.
I have no idea whether that recommendation was adopted or has any weight.
oh yeah. many years ago i was on a GJ in Southern District of NY… the hottest of the hot spots, right? well after 18 weeks with some of these other jurors, i can’t view news of an indictment being handed up in the same way. once, someone had to kick a guys chair to wake him up to vote. most people were serious and conscientious about the job. and some were morons. just like real life!
This is at least partly why lawyers don’t like to know what goes on in jury deliberations.
It hurts our fee-fees to learn that all our effort and eloquence is less persuasive than some juror saying “Well, he looks like my uncle Myron who went off with the bridge club secretary and the holiday fund in '53. He’s definitely a wrong 'un.”
I didn’t want to say it in my earlier post since there are a lot of US persons reading but it is of course obvious that the silly outfits make all the difference. Clearly no one would lie in front of either of those fine gentlemen.
And the wool arm warmers are apparently very handy in some of the colder courtrooms in the RCJ.
If I’m ever called to testify I’ll ask the judge if I may be allowed to pinky swear, or failing that, if “your honor would be willing to spit in your hand as I do mine and shake on it”. Really what’s the difference? All these swearing, affirming, oaths are all just as silly. Again we should just get to the real point and say “do you understand that lying to this court is punishable by law?” Rather than relying on superstition to compel people.
There are two reasons: the one you say, that some Christian sects actually pay attention to Jesus’ words and follow them, but also that some Christian sects (usually the same ones) believe that one must always tell the truth, so swearing that THIS TIME you’re really doing it is implying that normally you don’t. Affirming means that you’re nodding in agreement, yup, I’m telling the truth, just like I always do.