The New Mexico Supreme Court is cautioning the state's trial courts and lawyers that lack of English proficiency should not restrict someone's ability to serve on a jury. The warning was issued in a recent ruling that upheld an Albuquerque man's conviction for murder.
The man's lawyers argued that his convictions should be reversed because a judge in Bernalillo County excused a Spanish speaking juror who had trouble understanding English. The court said it agreed with the defendant's argument, but the convictions would not be reversed because his defense should have objected during the trial. The ruling also said the judge's dismissal violated a provision in the state constitution that says a citizen's right to hold office, vote, or serve on a jury can't be restricted by race religion, color or language proficiency.