Can a witness wear a veil on the stand?

The criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield explained the conflict faced by the court, rooted in the assumption that juries can sometimes distinguish truths from lies.

“Most of the time, witnesses lie with the same sincere face as when they tell the truth. Sometimes, they lie even better than when they tell the truth… There is also the problem of people telling the truth but looking like liars, which can happen for a great many reasons,” he wrote. “The point is that ‘demeanor’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and may just as well deceive a jury as aid it in deciding who is lying to them. Yet, it remains a crucial element of confrontation, and testifying from behind a veil precludes a jury from observing it.”

The trial court decided that Sparks would have to remove her veil in the presence of jurors to testify, but that spectators would be cleared from the courtroom. The right to confront an accuser would be undiluted. The rights to a public trial and the free exercise of religion would be somewhat compromised.

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