Confrontation, Language Conduit Rule

Criminal Law Update

People v Jackson, __ Mich App __; __ NW2d __ (2011 WL 1878794, No. 285532, decided May 17, 2011)(may’11). Defendant and two others were convicted of shooting two victims over a past drug debt. At trial, an officer testified regarding an interview of one of the victims who was unable to speak at the time due to the injuries incurred by the shooting. Sergeant Anderson communicated with the victim by asking “yes” or “no” questions, to which the victim would respond by either squeezing the hand of a nurse to indicate a “yes” response, or by not squeezing her hand to indicate a “no” response. At trial, the officer testified regarding the substance of the victim’s responses, as reported by the nurse. Defendant argued on appeal that the nurse’s reports were inadmissible hearsay and that the admission of her reports also violated his constitutional right of confrontation because she was not called as a witness at trial. The court held that the report was admissible under the “language conduit” rule, under which an interpreter is considered an agent of the declarant, not an additional declarant, and the interpreter’s statements are regarded as the statements of the declarant, without creating an additional layer of hearsay. Similarly, the court held that a defendant does not have a constitutional right to confront a translator, because the statements of the translator are considered to be the statements of the declarant.