An alleged killer may walk away on an interpretation technicality. In a twist that would make sense to anyone who has seen the Off-Broadway hit Tribes (still playing—see it!) 48-year-old deaf man Gabriel Thompson is trying to have a videotaped confession from 2010 thrown out because he says he was misunderstood and confused by a sign-language interpreter.
Back in 2010, police picked up Thompson while working on a tip regarding the 25-year-old cold case murder of Miguel Lopez—a man who was maybe having an affair with Thompson's then live-in-girlfriend. Prosecutors say that Thompson proceeded to confess to the murder, but he says that isn't true and the cop who interpreted his answers ignored his request for a lawyer and misconstrued him.
Making things more troublesome for the prosecution is the fact that Officer Julio Vasquez, who interpreted Thompson's comments, admitted at an evidence hearing that "prior to the confession he didn’t tell the prosecutor that Thompson asked him, 'Is the lawyer coming?' after some confusion over the Miranda warning." Still, Vasquez claims that Thompson distinctly admitted to the murder. Did he? Watch for yourself:
Since the tape was made both sides have since reviewed the video with their own sign-language interpreters, who each provided different transcripts to the court. No independent sign language expert has viewed the video. And now a judge will decide if the "confession" can be used as evidence. Thompson faces 25 years to life if he is convicted of Lopez's second-degree murder.