Changing the International Justice Landscape: Perspectives on Deaf Citizenship and Jury Service

Jemina Napier, David Spencer, Sandra Hale, Mehera San Roque, Gerry Shearim, Debra Russell

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Abstract

In Australia and other countries with adversarial court systems, such as Ireland and the United Kingdom, deaf people have not typically been permitted to serve as jurors because of a prohibition against having a sign language interpreter in the jury room. The United States is one country where there is an exception in that deaf people frequently serve as jurors in several states. We know that deaf people can understand courtroom discourse via sign language interpreters, but there has been no evidence as to how deaf people can participate in the jury deliberation process, or the impact of having a sign language interpreter present as “stranger” in the jury room. This had never been tested until this study, funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Program scheme, which is the first of its kind internationally to investigate whether deaf people can realistically participate as a juror in a trial and in the jury deliberation process. The project took the form of a simulated mock trial in a district court in Sydney with: a real jury; real police informants; current practicing lawyers; and a recently retired judge of the court. The results of this project will demonstrate whether the prohibition of a stranger (i.e., a sign language interpreter) in the jury room should be overturned. It will also explore the extent to which a deaf person can participate in jury deliberations via sign language interpretation, and how this study will pioneer domestic and international law reform. This article will: briefly track the prior research that led to this study and the current case law affecting the area; share the results of interviews with mock-trial participants and the stakeholder focus groups on their perspectives on the feasibility of deaf people serving as jurors; and present recommendations for the inclusion of deaf people as jurors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-266
Number of pages27
JournalSign Language Studies
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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