His lawyer said that even though he knew English, he had a "hard time" with some advanced words and would need explanations of some of the prosecution's statements. What?? THAT'S MOST OF AMERICA RIGHT THERE! Anyone could make that claim.
On top of that, I saw the part where CNN went around the area of the courtroom and found and identified local Liberian immigrants who said they would have interpreted for the court. One man was even eager after they told him about the case, and he said, "I would gladly do anything this government asked. [Because] I am a guest in this country."
Prosecutor Appeals After Judge Drops Rape Charges Against Liberian Over Lack of Interpreter
Monday, July 23, 2007
ROCKVILLE, Maryland (AP) -- Charges against a man accused of raping and repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl have been dropped because the court took too long to find an interpreter fluent in his native West African language.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Katherine D. Savage dismissed the nearly three-year-old case against Mahamu Kanneh last week, saying the delays had violated the Liberian immigrant's right to a speedy trial.
"This is one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in a long time," Savage said from the bench Tuesday. She said she was mindful of "the gravity of this case and the community's concern about offenses of this type."
Prosecutors are considering whether to appeal the dismissal. They cannot refile the charges.
Police arrested Kanneh, of Gaithersburg, in August 2004 after witnesses told police he assaulted the girl multiple times. He spent one night in jail and was released on a $10,000 bond with the restriction that he have no contact with minors.
Prosecutors at first maintained Kanneh could understand the proceedings without translation into his native Vai, a tribal language that linguists estimate is spoken by about 100,000 people mostly in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Prosecutors pointed out that Kanneh attended high school and community college in Montgomery and spoke to detectives in English.
A court-appointed psychiatrist recommended that an interpreter be appointed and judges who handled subsequent hearings heeded that advice. But officials could not find a competent interpreter of Vai who would stay.
The first interpreter stormed out of the courtroom in tears because she found the facts of the case disturbing. A second interpreter was rejected for faulty work. A third Vai interpreter was located, but at the last minute, that person had to tend to a family emergency.
In recent weeks court officials had found a suitable interpreter, but Savage ruled that too much time had already passed.
Prosecutor Maura Lynch had argued that dismissing the indictment "after all the efforts the state has made to accommodate the defendant would be fundamentally unfair."
Kanneh's attorney, Theresa Chernosky, declined to comment.
Loretta E. Knight, the court clerk responsible for finding interpreters, said her office searched exhaustively for a speaker of Vai. She said court officials contacted the Liberian Embassy and courts in all but three states.
The Washington Post reported that it identified three Vai interpreters Thursday with help from the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters, including one in Gaithersburg.