Why do we administer oaths to witnesses in court?
Does it mean people will automatically tell the truth? No. Is it so people who don’t tell the truth get punished for lying? Not in the way you might think, witnesses rarely get charged with perjury.
So why bother with oaths? Because that ritual of requiring every witness to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth reminds us that an American courtroom is a place where truth matters. While it may not always get told, it always matters. The truth becomes a guiding light for fair and just outcomes decided by juries. The whole process becomes a search for the truth. Consequences for not telling the truth don’t come from perjury charges, they come from verdicts rendered by jurors.
As someone who fortunately gets to spend a lot of time in courtrooms, I consider it to be hallowed ground, a special place where the truth still matters.