ASL Infographic: Wrongful Conviction of Deaf+Disabled People

[Video Description: 10 minute video of a young light skinned Latinx appeared with a brown hair down wearing maroon t-shirt, sitting down behind a white wall using ASL:

Did you know that some people in jail & prison are innocent!

Sometimes judges and juries decide that a person is guilty of crimes that the person did not do! Sometimes innocent people plead guilty to crimes they did not do!

When an innocent person is convicted of a crime they did not do it is called WRONGFUL CONVICTION. When an innocent person pleads guilty to a crime they did not do, it is also called a WRONGFUL CONVICTION. Wrongful convictions happen for many reasons including: eyewitness misidentification, police and prosecutor misconduct or mistake, old or improper science, false or forced confessions, and because of plea agreements.

Deaf/disabled people are at higher risk of wrongful arrests and convictions!

In addition to the common causes of wrongful conviction above, here are common patterns HEARD has [identified/noticed/tracked] in wrongful conviction cases of deaf/disabled people:

Legal system is ableist & audist, racist, classist, etc. MANY cross Cultural miss-communications & misunderstandings. (e.g., hearing to deaf; abled to disabled; Indigeous/Black DeafBlind to white sighted hearing; deaf nod; language deprivation; name sign not know full name peerson knew long time since, etc.)

No physical evidence tying the deaf person to the crime.

The only “evidence” in many of these cases is testimony of a hearing/speaking person who could more effectively communicate with police, attorneys, court, jury, etc. This person sometimes recants (takes back comment says they lied) later. Tends to be too late or not accepted/believed by court after the fact.

Improper or no accommodations provided with police, attorneys, court, jury, etc. (sometimes appropriate accoms are provided at court only but by then too late/not enough)

Unqualified interpreters/technology (VRI, VRS, pen paper) used by police, attys, courts. (e.g. certified terps who are not qualified; and cops, friends, families, accusers used as “terp”)

Interview/interrogation process used by law enforcement nationwide true biz causes misunderstandings lead to wrongful conviction Name of that popular interrogation process? Reid Technique.

Deaf/disabled person maintains their innocence even when punished additionally (e.g., denied parole for years bc “no remorse” or crime, or sent back to prison for not registering as sex offender, for example).

Deaf people with additional marginalized identities have even higher likelihood of wrongful conviction (e.g., DISABLED, youth, Black/Indigenous/Latinx, Low/no income, LGBTQI)

Guilty plea agreements. Wow! Over 90% of cases in the US are resolved through guilty plea instead of trial. Many people including disabled/deaf, low income, other marginalized people accept plea even when innocent.

Deaf/disabled person was taught to TRUST the legal system/cops/attorneys/etc and did not know their rights or assert the right to NOT speak to police and to DEMAND an attorney immediately and no words at all to police. (even when deaf person asserts right to DEMAND attorney, attorney ignorant about deaf/disability cultures harms the deaf person by allowing cops to continue interrogations, etc.)

SCREEN SAYS Esperanza’s thoughts on wrongful convictions of
deaf/disabled people. . .

I want to share my reflections with you all. I follow Innocence Project on Facebook page. They help to put an end to wrongful convictions. I feel a lack of connection when I read their stories because they don’t include deaf communities in their wrongful conviction cases, which they should! Right?
What about you? What are your thoughts on this topic of wrongful conviction? Is the concept of wrongful conviction new to you? Is it impacting on your community or your family? You can share your questions, concerns and experiences with us by using the hashtag: #DeafWrongfulConviction. (I point below as appearing hashtag on the video)


You also can look and review more information about general wrongful conviction on Innocence Project organization website ) (I point below as website link appears) and sign up for HEARD’s newsletters

HEARD newsletter short link:

HEARD advocates will host Webinar/Zoom chat about wrongful convictions upcoming end of the week!

HEARD webinar on wrongful conviction & Felix Garcia short link:


English infographic at:
Use #DeafWrongfulConviction to share & learn more.
Created by HEARD with research and data provided by Talila A. Lewis and Amber Farrelly.
Published December 2019

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