Outrageous outrage: Accused child rapist freed because court can't find interpreter

This is well and truly an outrage but I still can’t help chuckling at the predictability of the blog and media reaction tomorrow. All the ingredients are there. Child victim? Check. Immigration angle? Check. Law enforcement hamstrung by the demands of multiculturalism? Check. Showcase segments on “The Big Story” and O’Reilly, at least one of which to feature a sweating, defensive Geraldo Rivera? Checkity check check.


The most darkly, pathetically humorous aspect of the whole fiasco? It sounds like WaPo was able to locate several interpreters who speak Vai in the course of an afternoon:

The trial date was extended repeatedly as the state and the defense argued over whether Kanneh needed an interpreter and whether he understood the legal proceedings. The state noted that Kanneh attended high school and community college in Montgomery and spoke to detectives in English. The defense insisted that he needed an interpreter to fully understand the proceedings.

The matter was resolved after a court-appointed psychiatrist who evaluated Kanneh recommended that an interpreter be appointed. Judges who handled subsequent hearings heeded that advice.

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. After calling the Liberian Embassy and exhausting other avenues, the clerk’s office contacted the administrator of the state’s court interpreter program in Annapolis. He located a third Vai interpreter, but at the last minute, that person had to tend to a family emergency.

In recent weeks, court officials had found a suitable interpreter who could have assisted in the trial, but it was too late…

With help from the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, The Washington Post identified three Vai interpreters Thursday, including one in Gaithersburg. Lionbridge, a company that offers interpretation services, said it could provide Vai speakers on short notice. Knight said her office had been diligent. “It’s these rare languages we’re struggling with so much,” she said.


Held: violation of his right to a speedy trial notwithstanding the fact that he’s been out on bail since the day after they arrested him, free as a bird save for his promise not to have contact with minors. Because he’s here on a grant of asylum, a conviction could have meant deportation. There’s nothing unusual about letting a guilty man walk when government incompetence bleeds into unconstitutionality — the exclusionary rule is based on the same principle — but the right to a speedy trial is supposed to deter the government from using pretrial detention as a de facto term of imprisonment by postponing trial indefinitely. The delay in this case wasn’t purposeful, though; they just had crappy luck with their translators. I wonder if the prosecution can appeal on grounds of “Hey, they tried.” My dim understanding of speedy trial law is that it’s all multifactor tests and ad hoc standards, which means the appellate court will be disinclined to second guess the trial court unless they feel she “abused her discretion,” i.e. farked up egregiously. Close call.

The other issue is how far backwards they should have to bend over to accommodate boutique languages, particularly when the suspect already speaks English with some fluency. Whether that’ll bear on the calculus on the speediness of the trial, I don’t know, but it’s going to make for some dynamite “English-only!” rants tomorrow, I guarantee you.

Update: It’s 8:07 and Fox & Friends is already talking about it. Heh. I’m going to keep a running tally of how many different Fox shows this story turns up on today.


Update: 10:31 and America’s Newsroom is all over it.

Update: 11:21. E.D. and Fox News Live answer the bell.

Update: Fox News Live at noon leads with it.

Update: 1:04. Second story on the Live Desk with Martha MacCallum. They’re holding a live press conference now, in fact.

Update: Wow, another segment during the Live Desk. 1:44.

Update: Jane Skinner held out as long as she could. 2:35 on Fox News Live.

Update: Twice in the span of 20 minutes on Studio B — first at 3:03 and now again at 3:21.

Update: Surprise — Cavuto did not cover it. But Gibson’s on now and he just teased it in the intro.

Update: Greg Jarrett, subbing for Gibby, is running it now at 5:09.

Update: 6:14 and Brit’s all over it.

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