Some Question Fairness In Wright Trial

By Lou Raguse

A week into Daphne Wright’s murder trial, and some deaf people around
the country still wonder whether it’s possible for her to get a fair
trial.

Wright’s lawyers say she’s fairly intelligent; her IQ is 110. But the
deaf woman only reads English at a third-grade level.

That leads some activists to question whether the courtroom
accommodations are enough to make sure she understands the
proceedings.

Wright uses American Sign Language, which isn’t just the English
language spelled out into signs. ASL is its own language, with
different sentence structures than English. So even though the judge
took some extra steps to accommodate her in the courtroom for the
trial, some people think Wright still has trouble understanding
everything that’s going on.

Deaf civil rights activist Elizabeth Gillespie from Maryland runs a
blog, commenting on issues involving deaf people around the country.
In recent weeks, her topic of choice has been the murder trial of
Daphne Wright, the deaf woman accused of murdering and dismembering
another deaf woman, Darlene VanderGiesen.

Gillespie immediately wondered whether Wright can fully understand
what’s said in the courtroom. In an online interview with KELOLAND
News she writes:

“I am impressed with the efforts of her lawyer. She is trying her
best. But unfortunately, I don’t feel [Wright] is getting a fair
trial due to the denial of a certified deaf interpreter.”

Wright understands ASL, or American Sign Language. But she’s not as
proficient in written English. That was evident in court this week as
prosecutors introduced notes she wrote while being investigated.
Wright’s sentences are not grammatically correct, in part, because of
the translation that’s lost through ASL to English.

That’s why Gillespie says courtroom accommodations like this
real-time text translator don’t necessarily help Wright.

The courtroom interpreters in Wright’s trial do translate the spoken
English into ASL. But Gillespie worries, with the speed everyone
talks and all the complicated concepts in a courtroom, the
interpreters would have trouble clearly translating everything.

Gillespie writes: “This would be very difficult to do if the
interpreting is simultaneous”

A certified deaf interpreter, which Gillespie believes Wright needs,
is a second interpreter who, like the defendant, is deaf. The CDI
would watch the main interpreter then retranslate everything to
Wright to ensure comprehension. The defense asked a CDI, but Judge
Brad Zell rejected the request in an earlier hearing, determining
that the interpretation is sufficient.

(( Source:  KELOLAND TV ))