Q&A: Communication With Hispanic Deaf Mute Defendant*


“…We have a defendant charged with child molestation. The child is the defendant’s niece. The defendant is in his 20s, is deaf and mute and family speaks Spanish. The family has created a home sign language to communicate with the defendant. The court has excluded the brother (father of the child molested) as someone to communicate between the court and the defendant due to the obvious conflict. A sister was questioned in court as to her ability to communicate and it was determined that the home sign language was extremely basic information and she did not have the ability to communicate the court process to the defendant nor did she understand the court process. Today we had an certified American Sign Language interpreter who also is a Spanish interpreter. He was able to communicate very basic words i.e. mother, father, Mexico, hospital but did not believe he could communicate well enough with the defendant to explain the court process or the allegations to him.

Have any of you encountered this situation, and if so, how did you handle it?”


Try www.rid.org. Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) have expertise in this area.

If he could read English or Spanish, I would suggest using a realtime court reporter or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) provider. http://cart.ncraonline.org/Directory/default.htm.
_________________________________ *All names and other forms of specific identification have been edited out to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants.

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