Lost in Translation

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Rodriguez began to argue. "I believe he said..."
But Francis was in no mood to hear it. "I heard him say 'good friend,' and you interpreted 'friend,' and I have got some problems with proceeding with the interpretation as is."

"The question was, 'How do you know the deceased?'" defense attorney Brook Busbee recalls. "And the guy on the stand was the one who was trying to put it [the murder] on my client--so the jury needed to understand the motivation."

Francis agreed--although this time, she didn't dismiss the jury. Instead, she dismissed the interpreter and called an independent translator to finish the job. And she made a record for later use. "We have got to have absolute confidence in these interpreters, or the proceedings are a joke," Francis said. "We might as well not even be here."

A few hours later, Guillermo Galindo was there, defending his interpreter and his company.

"He said, 'You should have called me at once,'" Francis says. "And I said, 'For heaven's sake, we were in the middle of a jury trial.'"

"The defense lawyer admitted that [all] she knows [is] street Spanish," says Galindo, who insists his translator was not at fault in the second case either. "I went to see the judge because I was concerned. And because, look, if Monico was wrong, I want to correct [it]. Monico asked the defendant afterward and asked the witness that was there, and they said both of them said [he] was [not] wrong. And the judge didn't pay any attention to that. So I have come to the conclusion that certain judges--it's just the institutional racism.

"This is again what I see, what I call the institutional racism--the divide and conquer...What gets me is that all these people who are freelancers have gone through me. You know, and the reason I fired them, two of them, they never could make it on time," Galindo says.

But many courthouse regulars question Galindo's charges.
"Look. I don't care if they're independent or if they're from Tizoc's," says Busbee. "Hell, I don't even care if they're a member of the Communist Party. I just want them to get it right.

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Christine Biederman