Non-English Speakers On Juries Can Help Convict You In New Mexico

Just when you thought you had heard it all, the New Mexico Supreme Court rules non-English speakers can serve on juries in New Mexico whether they understand English fluently or they have no understanding of English whatsoever.

I have to admit I have a hard time understanding how this court could provide for something of the sort, but sure enough it happened and you may be surprised at the basis for such a ruling.  When I look at the potential for mischief deriving from such a ruling, I think, “Now there’s a pail of slippery eels if there ever was such a thing.

But here’s part of the story and a link to the rest of the story:

 SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court is cautioning trial courts and lawyers that citizens who don’t speak English have the right to serve on juries.

The court issued the admonition in a ruling that upholds an Albuquerque man’s convictions for murder and other crimes in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend and a subsequent armed robbery and stabbing.

Michael Samora’s appeal argued that his convictions should be reversed because a Bernalillo County judge excused a Spanish-speaking prospective juror who had trouble understanding English.

  Non-English Speakers Can Serve On New Mexico Juries

So, now you know the whole story or do you?  I think you do not know the complete story, but I will give you what I believe is the rest of the story.

It all starts with a little document know as the New Mexico Constitution and certain court procedures concerning the manner in which testimony of a non-English speaker is to be allowed:

So What’s It All About Alfie

If you access the above link you will 9 pages of rules and procedures.  The information that speaks to the constitutionality of the court case is covered by reference, but in case you are short of time you can read the citation involving the New Mexico Constitution just below:

II. NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING JUROR ASSISTANCE SERVICES
A. Scope
Article VII, Section 3, of the New Mexico Constitution provides that “[t]he right of any citizen of the state to . . . sit upon juries, shall never be restricted, abridged or impaired on
account of . . . inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages.” To comply with this constitutional mandate, all courts should strive to incorporate all New Mexico citizens into our jury system regardless of the language spoken by a prospective NES juror. Because
most potential NES jurors speak Spanish as their primary language, these guidelines seek to implement statewide standards for accommodating prospective jurors who speak Spanish. However, where financially and logistically possible, all courts are encouraged to implement these guidelines for other languages

Amazing, absolutely amazing and all for taking a chance on a juror who is a citizen, but does not speak the language, although we all thought being able to speak English was one of the requirements for citizenship.