Interpreters. DeKalb Superior Court. Before Judge Barrie.
Long D. Vo, for appellant.
Robert D. James, Jr., District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.
McFADDEN, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.
After a jury trial, Brian Weldon was convicted on numerous counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault in connection with a series of restaurant robberies. He argues on appeal that the trial court failed to comply
with rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding the use of noncertified court interpreters at trial, but he did not preserve this claim for appeal. He argues that his trial counsel's failure to object to the use of the interpreters constituted ineffective assistance, but he has not shown he was prejudiced by that failure. Finally, he argues that the trial court erred in failing to rebuke the prosecutor for an improper statement made during closing argument, but, again, he did not preserve this claim for appeal. Accordingly, we affirm.
The state presented evidence at trial that, over the course of several days in March 2007, Weldon participated in the armed robbery of four DeKalb County restaurants. Some of the victims were struck or shot during the robberies. One of Weldon's accomplices testified at trial about Weldon's involvement in the robberies. The state presented similar transaction evidence that Weldon had committed armed robberies in other counties during the same time period. The state also presented evidence that one of the victims was shot with a gun belonging to Weldon. Numerous persons who were at the restaurants at the time of the robberies testified to the circumstances of those crimes. Several of those witnesses did not speak English, and the trial court used Cambodian-, Mandarin-, and Korean-speaking interpreters to translate their trial testimony.
1. Use of court interpreters.
Weldon challenges the trial court's use of the three interpreters, because they were not certified interpreters and, he argues, the trial court did not comply with the rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Georgia for the use of noncertified interpreters.
The Supreme Court has promulgated rules " establishing a statewide plan for the use of interpreters in proceedings involving non-English speakers before any court or grand jury hearing in Georgia." Ramos v. Terry, 279 Ga. 889, 891 (1) (622 S.E.2d 339) (2005). See Use [328 Ga.App. 164] of Interpreters for Non-English Speaking and Hearing Impaired Persons. In Ramos, the Supreme Court summarized those rules as follows:
[W]hen a party or witness to a covered proceeding requests an
interpreter, the rules on use of interpreters envisage a pre-hearing
examination of the non-English-speaking person by the court and appointment of
an interpreter upon a judicial determination that the requestor does not
understand and speak English well enough to participate fully in the
proceeding. A court should make a diligent effort to appoint an interpreter
certified by the Georgia Commission on Interpreters; if one is not available,
the court is to give preference to a person on the list of registered
interpreters. Where ... neither a certified nor a registered interpreter is available, the court should weigh the need for immediacy in conducting a hearing against the potential compromise of due process, or the potential of substantive injustice, if interpreting is inadequate. If the court decides to proceed with a less qualified interpreter, the court should give the less qualified interpreter specified written or oral instructions on basic rules of interpreting in a judicial setting, and when a ...