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Non-English speaking U.S. citizens have right to sit on juries Supreme Court rules

By Mason White 9:40 AM August 14, 2013
Jury illustration 

By: Ryan Lee Hall
(Scroll down for video) A New Mexico court has ruled that courts have no right to dismiss a juror just because he or she cannot speak English, according to court proceedings.

The New Mexico Supreme Court is cautioning trial courts of the state that non-English speaking citizens are entitled to be part of the jury.

The court issued the warning along with a statement that reaffirmed the conviction of an Albuquerque man for murder and other crimes in the death of his girlfriend. The man killed his girlfriend and then went on to commit an armed robbery.

Michael Samora’s attorney argued in an appeal that his client’s convictions should be reversed after the Bernalillo County Courthouse excused a prospective Spanish-speaking juror, who had trouble understanding English.

The Supreme Court agreed with that argument, but also said that Samora’s attorney should have objected to the dismissal during the trial, which he did not do.

The State Constitution cannot not be restricted, abridged or impaired because of the inability to speak, read or write English, the court ruled.

The ruling issued Monday said that judges and lawyers must make reasonable efforts to protect the rights of non-English speaking citizens to serve on juries.