New Mexico Court Rules Non-English Speaking Citizens Can Serve on Juries

Paul Davenport and Russell Contreras, ABC News, August 13, 2013

The New Mexico Supreme Court is cautioning trial courts and lawyers in the heavily Hispanic state that citizens who don’t speak English have the right to serve on juries—a right enshrined in the state constitution even if people are non-English speakers.

The court issued the admonition Monday in a unanimous ruling that upholds an Albuquerque man’s convictions for murder and other crimes in the 2004 bludgeoning death of his girlfriend and a subsequent armed robbery and stabbing.

Michael Anthony Samora’s appeal argued that his convictions should be reversed because a Bernalillo County judge excused a Spanish-speaking prospective juror who had trouble understanding English.

The Supreme Court said it agrees with that argument but also said Samora’s defense needed to object during the trial but didn’t.

The ruling told trial judges and lawyers that they “have a shared responsibility to make every reasonable effort to protect the right of our non-English speaking citizens to serve on New Mexico juries.”

The ruling said the prospective juror’s dismissal violated a constitutional provision that said a citizen’s right to vote, hold office or serve on a jury cannot be restricted “on account of religion, race, language or color, or inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages …”


Today, just under half of New Mexico’s population is Latino, making it the most Hispanic state in the country.


In Samora’s case, the prospective juror said on his jury questionnaire he didn’t understand English well enough to write in English, and the judge told him an interpreter would be provided if the man was selected to serve on the jury.

However, the judge dismissed the man after he acknowledged he was not able to understand a large of the court proceedings.

Michael Olivas, a University of Houston law professor, said New Mexico courts are required by the state’s constitution to provide translators for Spanish-only speakers and typically make accommodations for others, like speakers of American Indian languages.

In a 2002, for example, ruling on juror service for Navajo speakers, the New Mexico high court said inconvenience alone doesn’t suffice to excuse a juror who cannot speak, read or write English or Spanish.



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  • This is about loading juries. No one will know what the interpreter is telling the juror.

  • IstvanIN

    So someone who can not understand the testimony, a “citizen” who can not speak English, is allowed to make life and death decisions? Nuts!

    • Tinfoil A22hat

      Why not? We already have a non-citizen performing executions on actual citizens found on his enemies lists.

  • din_do_nuffins

    MSNBC having big cry fest over “outrageous” comments about Obama at some GOP rallies.

    So, of course, they put n’ro Michael Steele (what’s his real African name?) on TV to tell GOP Whiteys how to think and act:

    “We should accept change and become a part of it.”

    That’s the new face of the GOP- an n’ro telling you that you SHOULD abandon your White privilege even faster.

    I thought we already did that in 1948, 1954, 1965, and 2008. We don’t have anything left to give up.

    • Sick of it

      We’re still alive. They’re working feverishly to solve that problem.

  • JohnEngelman

    I do not like the power of courts in the United States. I do not care whether they make right wing or left wing decisions. I trust the voters more.

    • Luca

      Especially when the courts are stacked with judges of a particular ideology. I have always believed that there should be at least one professional jurist of some type serving as jury foreman to reduce the possibility of senseless OJ-type verdicts.

      There are also issues with “mob rule”. The general population has been spoon fed electronic propaganda, drugs and academic indoctrination for three generations now. They are no longer virtuous, cannot think for themselves and are easily manipulated with gifts from the treasury. The treasury is replenished with money stolen from hard working citizens who do not have enough of a majority to stop the theft. Taxes, therefore, should only be levied on consumption and not on production.

      • JohnEngelman

        I am worried about the appeal of the demagogues of right wing hate radio, although I doubt that is what you mean by “electronic propaganda.”

        Rush Limbaugh has made a fortune telling angry white men lies they want to believe.

    • David Ashton

      Irrespective of IQ?

    • David Ashton

      How do members of your “superior race” among judges and lawyers compare in proportion to those among the voters?

      • JohnEngelman

        I imagine it is higher, just as it is in all professions requiring superior intelligence.

        • David Ashton

          So you would “trust” Them?

          • JohnEngelman

            Not more than the voters.

            Well educated, affluent people tend to be ignorant of realities less favored people encounter every day. This is true whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

            They usually lean in a libertarian direction.

  • This just means more convictions will be overturned on appeal, after English-speaking defendants and their lawyers argue that they were denied fair trials. Oh, goody!

    • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

      That was my thought too. This will be a gold mine for defense appeals.

  • Luca

    They already allow ignorant, low IQ, racist, irrational, people on juries, so this is simply the next step..

    When you have a jury pool like that it is much easier to get your client off. You can use a jingle or a poem for your legal defense, for example: “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit”.

  • Spartacus

    Que ?

  • Remember, Michael Steele is sister to Monica Turner. a Georgetown educated pediatrician who was the wife of the retard known as Mike Tyson. This is where Oprah should be chiming in about questions that need to be answered — a pediatrician having sex with someone that can never be more than 10 years of age intelligence wise.

    Michael Steele is no conservative. He found a (gravy) train and got on it.

  • Rhialto

    The concept of right to serve on a jury, makes no sense. If this right exists, then any citizen of NM would have to be placed on a jury at her request. This is absurd. Serving on a jury is a duty (that’s why it’s called “Jury Duty”).

    Even for American courts, this is a very goofy ruling.

  • Nick A Siggers

    The problem isn’t letting non English speaking citizens serve on juries, the problem is making non English speakers citizens in the first place.

  • evilsandmich

    I thought that ithad to be a jury of my peers. They may as well comb the planet and let everyone from Nepalese sherpas to African goat herders serve on the jury; I’m sure that they’d enjoy the ‘per diem’.

    • David Ashton

      Don’t put thoughts in their “heads”!!!

  • mobilebay

    Happened by C-span earlier today. Tamar Jacoby was leading a love-in with similar anti-Americans who all agreed how great it was to fill our country with foreigners. Seems they “boost the economy,” share the delights of diversity” and “demonstrate what this country was meant to be” Made me ill. A tip: check out You won’t be surprised to find our corporate enemies who are promoting more immigration. Not a word about hiring the millions of unemployed Americans. Yep, Bill Gates is rght there, making a pitch for the STEM grads. Seems we don’t have any smart people in this country anymore

  • libertarian1234

    “New Mexico Court Rules Non-English Speaking Citizens Can Serve on Juries”
    I’m not trying to be facetious when I say that in this devolving environment of political absurdity I wouldn’t be surprised if the ludicrous judicial system declared that the blind can be bus and taxi drivers, because they have the same “rights” as everybody else.

    And that includes SCOTUS which is now weighed down with so many leftists, freaks and wannabe liberals like John Roberts, most of their decisions are based on politics not the constitution.

    From the fulfillment of a dream to dysfunction in just a little over 200 years.

  • David Ashton

    Shouldn’t judges be ex-cons since they know better how accused persons “feel”?

    Shouldn’t dwarfs be recruited as fire persons with extra-length ladders? Shouldn’t blind women with PMT be allowed to pilot passenger aircraft so long someone else can assist them? Shouldn’t deaf mutes be employed as news readers so long as ventriloquists can read the autocues?

    Today’s idiocy becomes tomorrow’s “normality”.