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United States v. Bell
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
367 F.3d 452 (2004)
J. D. Bell and Charles Cotton (defendants) were charged with sexually assaulting Lee Jim, Jr. and George Cotton. George is deaf and mute. As a result, George was able to communicate only through a specialized form of sign language and grunts that only close family members understood. At a competency hearing, the trial-court judge decided to allow George’s sister, Pauline, to serve as an interpreter. Because Pauline spoke only Choctaw, her interpretation of George’s testimony was then translated by a licensed interpreter for the court. After George’s translated testimony, Bell and Cotton called Junior Cotton, a neighbor who also understood George, to testify about erroneous interpretations made by Pauline. On cross-examination, Pauline testified that she wanted her brother’s attackers to be punished. Nevertheless, Bell and Cotton were subsequently convicted of the charges. On appeal, Bell and Cotton argued that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Pauline to serve as an interpreter because Pauline was an interested party as the alleged victim’s sister and because she was not a qualified interpreter under the Court Interpreters Act.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (DeMoss, J.)
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