In a landmark decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court weighed in on a crucial issue of first impression: Must a criminal defendant be provided in-person interpreting services during a jury trial, or will video remote interpreting (VRI) suffice? The case of State v. Juracan-Juracan dives into this question, addressing a major point of contention within the legal community—especially given the significant adjustments courts have had to make in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oscar R. Juracan-Juracan, a native speaker of the Kaqchikel language, was charged with multiple offenses related to alleged sexual assault. Juracan-Juracan requested a Kaqchikel interpreter for his trial, but because the interpreter resided on the West Coast and only spoke Kaqchikel and Spanish, a second interpreter was needed to translate between Spanish and English. The interpreter himself expressed concerns about the effectiveness of remote interpretation during the jury trial. Despite these concerns, the trial court denied the request for in-person interpreting, citing financial constraints among other reasons.
The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for reconsideration. The Court made several crucial points: