Getting the Deaf a Fair Hearing

Vol. 42 No. 3

By

NICOLE ISRAEL, a 3L at New York Law School, is student editor of Student Lawyer.

Talila Lewis gives voice to the voiceless. Lewis, a 3L from American University Washington College of Law, has an ambitious schedule— holding a day job as a paralegal, attending classes, and running her nonprofit called HEARD, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf.

“We work to educate the public about abuse against the deaf and disabled in the justice system.”

While interning at a public defender’s office, Lewis was intrigued by a deaf man’s case. He had been imprisoned for a murder that, after some research, she believed he did not commit. According to Lewis, this man’s conviction was caused by three failures: First, the police department did not provide sign language interpreters during his interrogation. Second, the detectives and attorneys failed to perform investigative due diligence with regard to deaf culture and communication. Third, the deaf man was ignorant of the law and his rights.

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