Friday, February 08, 2002

Signing interpreters help juror to do duty

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Danielle Sabarese received a jury summons in the mail last year, the furthest thing from her mind was a reason why she wouldn't be able to serve.

        So the 42-year-old Reading woman contacted the Hamilton County Jury Commissioner's office to ask what she would need to do — and to tell them what they would need to do for her:

        Get a sign-language interpreter.

        Although not technically deaf, Ms. Sabarese has total hearing loss in one ear and a significant hearing deficiency in the other ear.

        County officials say she is the first juror to serve in spite of a significant hearing impairment that requires sign-language interpretation.

        Ms. Sabarese hopes her experience will increase awareness about those in the deaf community.

        “I believe in justice,” she said Thursday, after deliberating with other jurors for about an hour on an aggravated robbery case in which the defendant was found guilty. “I wanted to work with the other jurors .... It's my responsibility as a taxpaying citizen to involve myself when called.”

        Officials found her enthusiasm refreshing and worked to ensure that her needs would be meet.

        Kitty Ryan-Richards, jury coordinator, said Ms. Sabarese was initially called to serve in December. After learning of her needs, jury officials negated the first summons; contacted the Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center of Greater Cincinnati to contract for two interpreters; and reissued the summons for February.

        Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick said he initially thought he was getting a juror who couldn't speak English. He quickly realized when she entered the courtroom with two sign-language interpreters what kind of impairment Ms. Sabarese had.

        “Everything went smoothly,” Judge Helmick said.

        Bob Coltrane, director of the Community Services for the Deaf with the Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center, and Cherie Wren, a staff interpreter, worked in 20- to 25-minute shifts to ensure Ms. Sabarese understood what went on in the courtroom.

        They accompanied her to the jury room.

        “I think ... hearing people will learn that ultimately we are more alike than different,” Mr. Coltrane said.


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