The Law: Blind Justice and a Deaf-Mute

"The facts in this case are unique in American jurisprudence," said the Illinois Supreme Court. Donald Lang, 25, was charged with the fatal stabbing and beating of a woman friend. Lang cannot hear, speak, read or write. Nor does he understand sign language. For those reasons, Lang seemed clearly incompetent to stand trial. The question: should the state nonetheless try him?

Deaf-mutes have commonly been found fit for trial, but the fact of Lang's further disabilities posed enormous problems. Not only would he be unable to understand what was happening at the trial, but he could not communicate with his attorney to...

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