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Defense Lawyer Seeks All-Deaf Jury in Rape Trial of Deaf Suspect

October 14, 1996

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ A defense attorney wants an all-deaf jury, or at least one fluent in sign language, to decide a rape case in which the defendant, the victim and the key witnesses are deaf.

Mara Feiger, the public defender for Jesse Manual Macias, says a jury that doesn’t know sign language won’t be able to tell if the 17-year-old girl accusing Macias of rape is a credible witness.

Superior Court Judge Gordon Burkhart is expected to rule on Feiger’s motion Tuesday.

Macias, 19, of San Diego is accused of raping the girl on June 3 at the California School for the Deaf.

At a preliminary hearing, the girl testified through a sign-language interpreter that Macias, whom she has known for five years, raped her after the two became separated from a group on campus.

The girl said she cried out for help but other deaf students couldn’t hear her. She reported the assault to a counselor, who called authorities.

Feiger argued that hearing jurors will find it difficult to judge the girl’s credibility because deaf communication relies largely on facial expressions and body language.

``I don’t think if we pull 12 people off the street we’re going to have due process served here,″ Feiger said.

Prosecutor Cynthia Brewer said jurors could be briefed about sign language, but requiring them to be fluent is unnecessary. Even if all the parties in a trial speak Spanish, translators are used rather than a Spanish-speaking jury, she noted.

She said there is no legal precedent to grant such a request. And Norman M. Garland, a professor at the Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, called the request unreasonable.

``You’re entitled to a jury of your peers and that has never been interpreted to mean a jury of people just like you,″ he said.

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