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United States v. Fowler

    Brief Fact Summary. Fowler, Appellant, was convicted of failure to file tax returns for the years 1971-1975. He had not filed a tax return since 1953. He represented himself at trial and appealed the conviction because the trial court did not let him testify because he would not swear or affirm to tell the truth.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Federal Rule of Evidence 603 provides that “before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that he will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation.”

    Facts. Fowler, Appellant, stopped filing tax returns in 1953. He was indicted for failing to file returns from 1971-1975, and he was convicted. Appellant represented himself at trial but was represented by counsel on appeal. He claims the court erred in not allowing him to testify because he would not swear to tell the truth and would not allow cross examination. Appellant was willing to state “I am a truthful man,” and “I would not tell a lie to stay out of jail.” The judge was willing to allow him to say “I state I will tell the truth in my testimony,” but Appellant did not agree.

    Issue. Did the trial court err in refusing to allow him to testify because he would not swear or affirm that he would tell the truth?

    Held. Justice Gee issued the opinion for the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and found that the trial court did not commit error.

    Discussion. The Federal Rules of Evidence clearly require that in order to testify every witness must swear or affirm to tell the truth and submit to cross-examination.


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