In the case of Hill v. Skinner (81 Ohio App. 375, 79
N.E.2d 7887 (1947)), Hill was a 4 year-old boy who claimed that he wandered
into Skinner's yard and was bitten by Skinner's dog. While Hill had some cuts
and bruises, there was no proof that he suffered from a dog bite, and there was
no other evidence outside of Hill's testimony to prove he had been bitten.
Based on Hill's testimony alone, Skinner was found guilty.
The Trial Judge felt that Hill seemed to know the
difference between the truth and a lie, and the ramifications of lying.
He appeared to be able to relate events and was deemed competent.
The Appellate Court affirmed, saying that under Ohio State
common law, it is within the judge's discretion to decide whether a small
child is a competent witness or not.
"The essential test of the competency of an infant
witness is his comprehension of the obligation to tell the truth and his
intellectual capacity of observation, recollection, and
This case was decided under the common law. Today it
would be governed by FRE 601.