» The Contentious Trial
» The Ordinary Contentious Trial
» Witnesses and testimonies
» The examination of witnesses
§1. Witnesses must be examined at the tribunal unless the judge deems otherwise.
§2. Cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, and those who possess a similar favor by civil law are to be heard in the place they select.
§3. The judge is to decide where to hear those for whom it is impossible or difficult to come to the tribunal because of distance, sickness, or some impediment, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 1418 and 1469
The parties cannot be present at the examination of the witnesses unless the judge has decided to admit them, especially when the matter concerns a private good. Their advocates or procurators, however, can be present unless the judge has decided that the examination must proceed in secret due to the circumstances of the matters and persons.
§1. Each witness must be examined separately.
§2. If witnesses disagree among themselves or with a party in a grave matter, the judge, after having removed discord and scandal insofar as possible, can have those who disagree meet together or confront one another.
The judge, the judge’s delegate, or an auditor examines the witness; the examiner must have the assistance of a notary. Consequently, if the parties, the promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, or the advocates present at the examination have any questions to be put to the witness, they are to propose them not to the witness but to the judge or the one who takes the place of the judge, who is to ask the questions, unless particular law provides otherwise.
§1. The judge is to call to the attention of the witness the grave obligation to speak the whole truth and only the truth.
§2. The judge is to administer an oath to the witness according to can. 1532
; a witness who refuses to take it, however, is to be heard without the oath.
The judge is first of all to establish the identity of the witness, then ask what relationship the witness has with the parties, and, when addressing specific questions to the witness concerning the case, also inquire about the sources of his or her knowledge and the precise time when the witness learned what he or she asserts.
The questions are to be brief, accommodated to the mental capacity of the person being questioned, not comprised of several points at the same time, not deceitful or deceptive or suggestive of a response, free from any kind of offense, and pertinent to the case being tried.
§1. Questions must not be communicated to the witnesses beforehand.
§2. Nonetheless, if the matters about which testimony must be given are so remote to memory that they cannot be affirmed with certainty unless previously recalled, the judge can advise the witness beforehand on some matters if the judge thinks this can be done without danger.
Witnesses are to give testimony orally and are not to read written materials unless they are computations and accounts; in this case, they can consult the notes which they brought with them.
§1. The notary is to write down the response immediately and must report the exact words of the testimony given, at least in what pertains to those points which touch directly upon the material of the trial.
§2. The use of a tape recorder can be allowed, provided that the responses are afterwards transcribed and, if possible, signed by the deponents.
The notary is to make mention in the acts of whether the oath was taken, excused, or refused, of the presence of the parties and other persons, of the questions added ex officio, and in general of everything worth remembering which may have occurred while the witnesses were being examined.
§1. At the end of the examination, what the notary has written down from the deposition must be read to the witness, or what has been recorded with the tape recorder during the deposition must be played, giving the witness the opportunity to add, suppress, correct, or change it.
§2. Finally, the witness, the judge, and the notary must sign the acts.
Although already examined, witnesses can be recalled for examination before the acts or testimonies are published, either at the request of a party or ex officio, if the judge decides it is necessary or useful, provided that there is no danger of collusion or corruption.
Both the expenses which the witnesses incurred and the income which they lost by giving testimony must be reimbursed to them according to the just assessment of the judge.
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