United States v. Jabu

Criminal Practice

New York Law Journal


District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto

Tanzanian Jabu's native language is Swahili. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport. After speaking with customs officers—to ascertain the need for an interpreter—Homeland Security agent Soto believed Jabu understood English. Soto read Jabu his Miranda rights in English. Jabu responded affirmatively to Soto's question whether he understood the warnings. Jabu made statements whose suppression was sought on the ground that because he does not speak English he was never advised of his Miranda rights in a fashion that he could fully understand. District court denied suppression, finding that Jabu knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. It noted Soto's credible testimony that Jabu spoke English in their interactions in an effective manner. Also, emails from Jabu's wife—while in custody—were in English, and Jabu actively participated in a 20-minute interview with Soto, conducted entirely in English, and gave relevant answers in English. The preponderant evidence showed that despite his professed limited command of English, Jabu understood the Miranda rights. A defendant's ability to communicate in English with English-only speakers weighs toward a finding of a valid waiver.

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