By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Court rules you have right to understand rights

A McMinnville police detective translated Miranda warnings for Spanish-speaking suspects in the case. One of them, Jeronimo Botello-Rosales, appealed his conviction on the grounds that the translation was extremely poor.

He made the same argument during his trial in federal court, but the judge, U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, now retired, ruled against him. Botello-Rosales then pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture of marijuana and possession of a firearm by an illegal immigrant – with the stipulation that he could appeal.

The Appellate Court had the detective, Jose Salas, who now works for the state Department of Justice, translate Miranda rights into Spanish, with a court-interpreter translating them back into English. Defense Attorney Michael Levine then called two other court interpreters to testify about Salas’ translation.

Both said that he did so in awkward, hard-to-understand phrases, used the wrong gender for some words, and in one case, used the wrong word altogether.

According to the translators, Salas said, “You have the right to remain silence .. Anything you say can be used against you in the law … If you don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer, you have the right. One who is free could be given to you.”

Much of the testimony involved the word Salas used for “free,” – libre. The interpreters said that it means free as in “at liberty,” not “free of cost.” That could, they said, cause the listener to believe he was being offered a lawyer if one happened to be available.

The court did not address the issue that, in fact, court-appointed lawyers are not necessarily free; defendants found guilty are often required to repay part or all of the cost for their attorneys.

Prosecutors argued that because Botello-Rosales speaks English, he probably understood his rights anyway, as they were first read to him in English. But the court ruled that doesn’t absolve police from translating correctly.

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