Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lack of an Interpreter Causes Sex-Abuse Charges To Be Dropped

Judge Dismisses Sex-Abuse Charges

This case is both interesting and tragic, although much more of the latter than the former. A seven year old girl reported being raped repeatedly by one of her relatives. The judge ruled that the charges had to be dismissed because the suspects right to a speedy trial had been violated due to numerous delays. The delays occurred because of language difficulties. The suspect speaks some English but his first language is Vai, which, according to the article, only has about 100,000 speakers in the entire world. Unfortunately, even though the state determined that the suspect needed a Vai interpreter in order to understand the proceedings, for a period of almost three years, the courts were unable to produce some one qualified to do that. So, as I said, the judge dismissed the charges against the person.

On the one hand, I think that the state really did need to provide a Vai translator here. If you can't really understand what the suspect is saying and the suspect can't even effectively express himself or understand exactly what's going on, then you can't possibly provide the sort of fair trial that people are supposed to be entitled to here in the USA.

However, I am none too comfortable with the fact that this little girl was raped and no one will be punished for doing it. I have to wonder how much effort the state would put into finding a proper interpreter if the victim hadn't been a little black girl. What if the girl hadn't come from a family of African immigrants? What if she was white with blonde hair and blue eyes?

I'm not saying the state didn't try because it's evident that they did put a good bit of effort into finding an interpreter, but the fact that the Washington Post was able to find several of them in one day leads me to believe that the state could have done much more. I mean, all the newspaper did was contact the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and they were able to find an available Vai interpreter in the same city as the trial was to take place.

Why didn't the state contact NAJIT? I mean, I typed "judiciary interpreters" into Yahoo's search engine and NAJIT was the second entry. I Googled it and NAJIT was the first entry. While the state was busy supposedly contacting the courts in 47 different states, why--in three years--did no one even bother to contact them. It's not like it's a new organization. They've been around since 1978. This debacle could have been avoided with a fraction of the effort the state claims it expended.

The state acted completely incompetent in this case, but you know what? I think that this situation proves an even bigger point: It is absolutely shameful how the US government refuses to make an effort to promote multilingual education in the schools. We are only fooling ourselves if we (US citizens) think that our children will be able to succeed and compete for jobs in this new century without being able to speak more than one language.

Today I had an experience in Wal-Mart that really brought this home for me. I think I'm going to write a separate post about it now.


Ravenmn said...

"What if she was white with blonde hair and blue eyes?"

Better yet, what if she'd been a blonde-haired, blue-eyed "Little Miss Washington"?

I wonder if some of the problem was findinng a "certified" translator. In three years, though, they could have paid a Vai speaker to go through the certification process!

It sucks.

Daisy Deadhead said...

I saw that too, Bint. Really bad situation. And everyone was just gnashing their teeth and avoiding responsibility.

I'm looking forward to your post!

Blackamazon said...

* makes my head hurt so bad*

belledame222 said...

gahh. and yes, I look forward to the Wal-mart post as well.