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Virginia Supreme Court says it can’t hear case of deaf and mute capital murder defendant

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case of a deaf and mute immigrant who’s been held without trial for 13 years.

And neither does the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The unanimous decision leaves Oswaldo Elias Martinez in legal limbo.

For 13 years, he’s awaited trial, accused of brutally raping and killing 16-year-old Brittany Binger in James City County in January 2005. But because he can’t communicate with his lawyers, he’s remained incarcerated at Central State Hospital, a secure facility in Petersburg.

“The law may not have a category for this man,” said L. Steven Emmert, a Virginia Beach attorney and expert on appellate procedures.

Martinez is not insane, but also has been declared incompetent to help in his own defense.

Deaf and mute man can’t stand trial in girl’s 2005 slaying. Can the state hold him forever?

At the same time, Emmert said, “It’s unthinkable for most folks, including me, that someone who’s charged with a capital murder for which there’s a fair amount of evidence to sustain it might be just turned loose — you’re free.”

Martinez’s lawyers aren’t out of legal options just yet. They could file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus — a kind of court challenge that goes back 800 years — to challenge his detention. At a hearing before the Supreme Court in October, one justice urged that Martinez’s lawyers to do just that.

“It seems that the next logical step is to assert that his continued detention is illegal, and that’s he’s got a right to be charged or discharged,” Emmert said. He said habeas petitions can likely be filed on a defendant’s behalf even if he’s incompetent to stand trial.

Timothy Clancy, one of Martinez’s attorneys, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

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This Hyattsville brewery wants to make great beer — and serve the deaf community

Streetcar 82 in Hyattsville has all the makings of a neighborhood hangout. But the brewery, owned by three Gallaudet University graduates, has a mission that goes beyond beer: It also gives the deaf and hard of hearing a place to work and unwind.

Owners Jon Cetrano, Mark Burke and Sam Costner, who are deaf, opened Streetcar 82 this fall, turning their home-brewing hobby into an operational brewery with the aim of providing employment and visibility to the deaf community.

“In the service industry, there are not many deaf individuals, because the view is that deaf people have a barrier to communication,” Cetrano said in an email interview. “We wanted to challenge that norm.”

Of course, they wanted to make great beer, too.

On a recent chilly Sunday afternoon, customers sat outside at communal picnic tables, sipping flights and sharing bites from Pizzeria Paradiso next door. Inside, a hearing customer taught another the sign for “water,” which she ordered from the bar. Next to the towering stainless-steel brewing tanks, a party of about 15 friends and their children engaged in lively conversation in sign language.

Both deaf and hearing customers frequent the brewery. For some, it’s a place to try new beers. For others, it’s a scarce opportunity to blend in.

“It is very rare for deaf people to have a place like Streetcar 82, where they can go and hang out for a couple beers and talk like normal people,” said David Day, a social studies teacher for Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

The brewery has become a tool for educating the hearing community — not from a medical perspective, but a cultural one, said Steph Sforza, a certified deaf interpreter at Gallaudet and frequent customer of Streetcar 82: “We are educating people that we have language, common values, norms, traditions and behaviors, just like hearing people. Now, the hearing community can share what they learn about deaf people and hopefully change the perspective.”

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Disabilities rights became law under Bush

President George H.W. Bush did more to advance civil rights than any president since Lyndon Johnson, including Barack Obama.

If you remember only the 1988 campaign ad blaming his Democratic opponent, then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, for a rape committed by African-American convict Willie Horton while on weekend furlough, you may find my statement absurd if not dishonest.

Yes, Bush should have disavowed the spot, created by a group not connected to the official Bush campaign. But few people born after ’88 probably know about it and it doesn’t impact their lives daily.

These young people and virtually everyone else though see or feel Braille on elevators, use public restrooms equipped with wheelchair-accessible stalls and ideally don’t use disabled parking unless they are qualified to.

y now, we all use or see these things and others, such as service dogs in businesses, without thinking. Yet, before July 26, 1990, no federal law mandated any of those them.

On that hot day on the White House lawn, Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, the last major civil rights measure we have seen.

Among it’s provisions, it barred job discrimination against qualified people with disabilities and required doctors to provide sign language interpreters for people who are deaf. In short, it made people with disabilities seen for what they are: citizens no different from others.

It also moved others nations to pass similar laws and led to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which the Senate should ratify now.

The ADA was not a Republican victory or a Democratic one. Liberal Ted Kennedy and conservative Bob Dole and others on both sides of the aisle worked with Bush’s White House for the good of the entire nation.

This how our government should work and the 41st president understood this.

In 1996, Bush never touted the ADA during his re-election bid. I often wondered why. I now think he understood disabilities rights know no party.

As he grew older, he became a wheelchair user. After his beloved wife, Barbara, died, a VA-supplied service dog helped him handle his daily tasks. What he did for others ended up helping him

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Nursing home repeatedly hung up on deaf woman, attorney general says

Nicole Perkins, a caseworker at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, is deaf and was calling Atrium in May 2016 to get medical records for a client, who is also deaf.

Officials said Perkins used a video relay service, called Purple Communications, to place her call. The service allows deaf and hard-of-hearing callers to communicate using videophones, with sign-language interpreters.

To use Purple, a deaf caller connects with an operator via FaceTime or text message. The operator then calls an intended recipient — in this case, Atrium — and relays the conversation to the deaf caller.

Perkins told state investigators that on her first try, the operator reported that a man answered the phone at Atrium but refused to accept the call, saying, “I’m not responsible,” before he hung up.

The operator called four more times within 10 minutes, officials said, but the same man refused the calls and would not give his name.

Officials said state investigators later obtained phone records from Purple, confirming the operator’s attempts to reach Atrium.

Further investigation found that Atrium employees, including two receptionists, do not know how to answer calls assisted by relay services. Officials said another worker allegedly told investigators he answers the nursing home’s phone when receptionists take breaks and that he might have hung up on what he thought was a robocall.

Officials issued a finding of probable cause in April, saying they were “concerned” about such a lack of awareness.

In a five-page finding, the director of the state Division on Civil Rights, Craig Sashihara, wrote that Atrium’s failure to accept relay calls from Perkins “prevented [her] from performing her job” at St. Joseph’s.

Atrium now must educate all employees on the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, officials said. That training must teach them how to field calls from relay services.

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Musical legends join forces for the Deaf and Loud Experience.

Rapper Sean Forbes and two other deaf performers will share the stage with the DSO at Orchestra Hall Dec. 16 for a performance of Motown and other Detroit-centric music that is bound to be as profound as it will be unusual.

Forbes, Grammy-winning percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Mandy Harvey, a finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2017, will perform in the “Deaf and Loud Experience,” which might be the first-ever to feature deaf musicians. Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), who is deaf (and Jewish), will be on hand, along with an array of local musicians, including Jake Bass of Berkley, Forbes’ songwriting partner and son of Oak Park-native Jeff Bass of the famed Bass Brothers, also known as the Funky Bass Team (FBT, the producers who groomed and signed Eminem). Simon Cowell, creator of America’s Got Talent, is a main sponsor of the show, along with the Motown Museum, which is bringing in Detroit music legend Paul Riser to arrange a set of Motown classics.

How do deaf musicians “hear” what they play? And how do deaf and hard of hearing people receive music? The answer, as delivered by the Deaf and Loud Experience, includes sign language, captioning, vibrations, pitch, rhythm and a lot of heart.

“You’ll see beautiful music in a way the artist expressed it,” says Forbes, 36, of Royal Oak. Forbes is a hip-hop artist who has made pop music accessible to the deaf community through his music videos, recordings and the recently launched web-based American Sign Language channel he runs, DPAN.TV.

The genesis of the DSO show began with a 2015 Washington Post story on Forbes, who had recorded an album, Perfect Imperfection, and worked himself into a career as head of D-PAN (Deaf Professional Arts Network), a Detroit-based nonprofit founded in 2006 by Joel Bacow — manager of FBT — of Huntington Woods. The concert will benefit the organization, created to make music and culture accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.