Deaf robbery suspect appears in court

Tuesday, January 3rd 2006, 1:00 pm
By: News On 6

A 15-year-old deaf boy was in Tulsa County court Tuesday on an armed robbery charge. The News on 6 told you about Sid McDade last week. His parents say he's a troubled kid who needs help, but his cases keep getting kicked out of the system because of a lack of deaf interpreters.

Sid went to court Tuesday and once again, no interpreter. As News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains, that violates a new state law.

Sid McDade has a history of behavioral problems and as he gets older, that translates into trouble with the law. His parents say they've tried to get him help, but are told different things by different agencies. They say whether it's counseling or getting arrested; Sid is usually home pretty quickly because agencies don't have a way to deal with his disability.

Glenna Cooper with the Oklahoma Association for the Deaf says this is a common problem. "I feel so much for parents in the system. It's so frustrating and it's a constant fight. A state law just passed and they're not adhering to that."

The state law that passed November 1st says all state agencies, including police and the courts; have to appoint a qualified legal interpreter for any proceeding that involves a hearing impaired person. Yet, when Sid had his arraignment Tuesday morning on a charge of a home invasion robbery, there was no interpreter.

Instead, everything had to be written down and Sid's parents say he doesn't read or write well enough for that form of communication to be effective. "What bothers me is they don't take it seriously. If this was a hearing 15 year old boy, this would've been handled differently, much differently, so it's clearly discrimination."

The courts tell Lori Fullbright, the reason Sid didn't have an interpreter Tuesday was because the jail made the request on Friday, which wasn't enough notice. Money is also a problem.

The state Supreme Court set the price courts can pay for an interpreter at $40 an hour. But many places with interpreters, like the Tulsa Speech and Hearing Association, charge $60 an hour. Part of the new law sets up a certification board that will set the pay rates, so that issue could be resolved in the next few months. This problem doesn't just affect the courts, but all state agencies.