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.That opinion is shared, as it happens, by many Liberian immigrants, who are disgusted that the charges against Kanneh have been dropped on this basis, noting that English is Liberia's official language and is "spoken even in villages."
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.
"If he went to school in Liberia and is literate he should speak English," said Rev. Albert Nebo of Atlanta, Ga., one of many immigrants who called local officials and the Liberian embassy to decry the dismissal of charges against Kanneh.The thing is, even if Kanneh didn't go to school in Liberia and doesn't speak English and somehow managed to graduate from an English-speaking Maryland high school and attend an English-speaking community college nonetheless, even if all that is true, there was a translator in the courtroom as the charges were dismissed, so the case could have thusly moved forward next week as planned. But Judge Savage chose instead to rule the prosecution had taken too long and dropped the charges, commenting: "This is one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in a long time [because I am mindful of] the gravity of this case and the community's concern about offenses of this type."
All right then.
So, now prosecutors have to appeal because they cannot refile the charges. And Kanneh goes free, all for the want of a competent interpreter of Vai.
Forgive me if I feel like justice was not served.