Ms. Campbell analyzes the federal witness competency standards and applies them to the current scientific knowledge of chimpanzees and bonobos. Such comparisons indicate that chimpanzees and bonobos could potentially meet these standards and therefore be legally competent witnesses in certain circumstances. The federal competency standards for witnesses testifying on the stand are fairly liberal. Witnesses must be able to distinguish right from wrong, understand the concept of punishment, perceive events, and remember those events to communicate them in the future. Chimpanzees and bonobos are able to do all of these things to some degree, and therefore, arguably satisfy the federal competency standards. In some situations, this indicates that these nonhuman apes should be allowed to testify in court, subject to the federal competency and interpreter rules.
Full Title Name: Could a Chimpanzee or Bonobo Take the Stand?