Court Rules that Defendant Was Not Denied Right to Cross Examine a Witness that Was Deaf, Could Not Speak, and Never Learned Sign Language

By: Wallin & Klarich

The United States Constitution gives defendants the right to cross-examine witnesses against them in criminal proceedings. A defendant in California appealed his conviction of murder on the grounds that he was unable effectively to cross-examine the prosecution’s key witness.

The mother of the victim in this case was the prosecution’s key witness. The victim’s mother, is deaf, cannot speak, and has never learned a standard sign language. Rather, she communicates by using a combination of signs, gestures, facial expressions, and lip reading. At trial, the court used two interpreters to elicit her testimony. The criminal defense attorney for the defendant objected a number of times throughout her testimony, claiming, among other things, he could not determine whether she understood the questions being asked of her.

The court held that the defense was at no more disadvantage than the prosecution. The court reasoned that the defendant was unable to show any disadvantage or hardship on his ability to defend himself based on the witness’ impairments. As such, the court denied the defendant’s request to have his conviction overturned.

f you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you hire an aggressive, experienced California criminal defense firm. Hiring an experienced criminal defense law firm can greatly increase your chances of keeping your freedom, and ensuring that you receive the lowest possible sentence. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been helping people for over 30 years.

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Posted In: Criminal Appeals