Prosecutors Seek Appeal in Rape Case Dropped for Language Barrier

After a Montgomery County judge in Maryland dropped nine counts of rape, sex abuse, and child abuse against a man because the court was unable to find a translator, prosecutors have announced that they will seek an appeal. Mahamu Kanneh, a Liberian immigrant, was accused of raping and repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl and was set to go on trial early next week. Circuit Court Judge Katherine Savage, however, found that the difficulties the court experienced over the past three years trying to find a translator who speaks the West African language Vai — a language spoken by only some 100,000 people in the world — were interfering with Kanneh’s right to a speedy trial. Over Kanneh’s span in the Maryland legal system, three interpreters participated, but all left due to various reasons.

Prosecutors in the case have decided to pursue an appeal in the state Court of Special Appeals. In addition to the successful location of three interpreters, plus a fourth who was present during the judge’s dismissal of the case, prosecutors allege that Kanneh does not even need a translator and is requesting one to delay the trial’s process. According to the Maryland Gazette, Kanneh graduated from an English-speaking high school and attended community college in Maryland.

One Maryland delegate, Patrick L. McDonough, has moved to take action against the judge who dismissed the case, saying, “We have created an attitude that no matter how important and grievous a crime is, that a technicality takes precedence over the rights of the victim,” the Washington Times reports.

This case follows on the heels of another bungled rape case in Nebraska, where a District Judge declared a mistrial after banning certain words, including “rape” and “sexual assault,” from his courtroom.


Maryland Gazette 7/25/07; Washington Times 7/26/07; ABC 7/25/07; Washington Post 6/22/07; AP 7/07

Support eh ERA banner