A Maryland lawmaker is seeking to remove the judge who dismissed a Montgomery County case because of delays in securing an interpreter for the trial of a Liberian immigrant accused of raping and repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl.
"We have created an attitude that no matter how important and grievous a crime is, that a technicality takes precedence over the rights of the victim," said Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican. "So any time a defendant comes into court and has a language problem, there's a good chance they could have their case dismissed."
Circuit Court Judge Katherine D. Savage ruled last week that the delays associated with finding an interpreter who spoke the African language Vai violated Mahamu Kanneh"s right to a speedy trial.
Mr. McDonough yesterday said the decision to drop the case set a dangerous precedent in Maryland, and he would seek to have her impeached. He said he will introduce a resolution to remove Judge Savage when the House of Delegates convenes in January. If the resolution were passed by the House, the Senate would decide whether to remove the judge.
It would be the first time since the Civil War that the legislature removed a judge. The House of Delegates last year rejected a lawmaker's call to impeach a Baltimore circuit judge who ruled that the state's same-sex "marriage" ban was unconstitutional.
Mr. Kanneh was arrested nearly three years ago after witnesses said he raped and repeatedly sexually molested a 7-year-old relative.
His trial was delayed as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued whether Mr. Kanneh, who attended high school and community college in Montgomery County, needed an interpreter.
After a court-appointed psychiatrist said he did need an interpreter, the court struggled to find one. The first interpreter left after becoming emotional while hearing the facts of the case, and the second became ill, according to a statement from Montgomery County State's Attorney John J. McCarthy. A third interpreter participated in two hearings and was unavailable for the trial, he said.
Under Maryland law, a defendant has a right to a trial 180 days after indictment.
Mr. McCarthy, a Democrat, said Monday that he would appeal Judge Savage's ruling. Mr. McDonough said he would not wait for the outcome of the appeal before attempting to remove Judge Savage.
"This should send a message to the people of Maryland that the General Assembly has an obligation to protect their rights when it comes to decisions by judges," Mr. McDonough said. "This case cries out for justice for this little girl."
The judge's ruling "promoted a culture of crime in Maryland," he said.
He has received calls from outraged constituents, and "90 percent" of the public would support impeaching Judge Savage, he said. But he was doubtful of a warm reception for his proposal in the General Assembly.
Circuit judges in Maryland serve 15-year terms. Judge Savage, one of 21 judges on the Montgomery County Circuit, joined the court in 2002. She was previously an associate judge for the District Court in Montgomery County.
By Elaine Donnelly
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