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The Champion

March 2011 , Page 30 

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Basic Legal Issues in Handling the Cases of Deaf Defendants

By McCay Vernon; Jean Andrews

Deaf clients represent a small minority of defendants in criminal cases. Thus, attorneys and judges often have little knowledge of the unique legal problems deaf1 individuals pose when involved with the criminal justice system. Nor are attorneys and judges always aware of the specific laws written to assure deaf defendants equal treatment in court and other legal settings.2 

For these defendants, this often means cases involving them are lost when they could have been won. As a result, deaf individuals frequently go to jail or prison or suffer other serious injustices. These injustices include not obtaining the services and care provided to hearing inmates — to which the deaf inmates are entitled under the American with Disabilities Act.3 

In addition, because deafness is invisible, it is usually not considered an important disability. This attitude is characterized by the following statement: “The only problem deaf folks have is that they can’t hear music

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