Language barrier postpones dragging death trial
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The trial of a man from Ecuador charged with being drunk when he struck and dragged a motorcyclist to his death in Milford was postponed Wednesday while the court looks for an interpreter who speaks the defendant’s native tongue.
Nicolas Dutan Guaman, 37, has pleaded not guilty to charges including second-degree murder for allegedly striking 23-year-old Matthew Denice’s motorcycle, and dragging Denice under his pickup truck for a quarter-mile before stopping in August 2011. Guaman didn’t stop as witnesses banged on the side of his truck, prosecutors said.
Guaman is in the U.S. illegally, authorities have said, and the death sparked a fierce debate in Massachusetts about immigration enforcement.
His native language is Quechua, an indigenous South American language common in the Andes mountain range, and he has limited understanding of English and Spanish.
After realizing that the interpreter was speaking Spanish to Guaman, the judge in the jury-waived trial that started Wednesday postponed proceedings while the court clerk looks into the availability of a Quechua interpreter.
The interpreter told the court that he speaks Quechua, but a different dialect than Guaman.
“I’m not real confident that all that’s said will be adequately translated if it’s not in his primary language,” Worcester Superior Court Judge David Ricciardone said.
The clerk’s office is scheduled to report back on Monday.
“We’re lucky we had this judge,” said Guaman’s lawyer, Peter Ettenberg. “I thought this was somebody who was going to speak the same language as my client.”
Outside of court, Denice’s mother, Maureen Maloney, said she understands why the judge is being so thorough.