She Smiles and Nods

I wrote this description from a videotape, I was asked to review in a court case involving a lady deaf inmate in a prison in the western part of the U.S.

She Smiles And Nods

She stood in the small room alone shackled in chains from the top of her ankles to a metal black bar on the floor. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit she waited for the two young detectives to come in. She met them with a smile and a nod. The lady detective dressed in causal clothes gently unshackled the lady inmate’s ankles and then put one handcuff on her right wrist to the chain on the bar on the floor. She now had one hand free to sign.

The other detective was a young man in a tie and white starched shirt. She pointed to his empty coffee cup on the table and made the sign for EAT. The detective said, “You want coffee?” She smiled and nodded. He left to get her coffee.

On the table were piles of pictures of unshaven men, houses, and hot checks. The young detective returned with the coffee and said, “Sorry it is cold, someone turned the coffee machine off.” She smiled and nodded and took the coffee.

Detectives question a voting suspect
Detectives question a suspect (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

“Haven’t slept in 8 days,” she said using deaf monotone speech with miming, gesturing and signing to the two detectives. “You just had to talk to someone, I know,” one detective said. She stared down at the table. She was not looking at his lips.

The young detective then took out a copy of the Miranda Warning and said, “Remember everything we talked about yesterday, you understand it, right?” He points to the paper. She sips her coffee and smiles.

The next hour is a comedy of errors. The detectives become “talking heads.” They ask question after question and point to the pictures. Sometimes she picks up a pencil and writes notes back to them. The woman detective reads back her notes and says, “Oh, you mean you this…..” Sometimes she shakes her head, frowns and takes the paper back from the detective and writes more words.

After an hour of difficult questioning, the detectives thank her for being so cooperative. They had gotten her confession! She had smiled and nodded to all their questions and in their minds she had admitted to all the burglaries and writing of hot checks. Why they had all the evidence on videotape! She had even signed a waiver the previous day that she understood the Miranda Waiver.

19 thoughts on “She Smiles and Nods

    1. Yes, it was my intention to repeat the saying three times…”She smiled and she nodded.” This behavior happens alot with deaf persons when they are not provided with an interpreter. It is damaging because the police or detectives interpret this as the deaf person is comprehending but they are really not understanding.


  1. June 7, 2010, the police officer offered me to sign the Mirada warning without providing an ASL interpreter.

    I just found out that there is surveillance video anywhere in the holding room in the department of officer during June 2010.

    February 7, 2010, the woman officer gave a Miranda warning card to me. I refused to sign it because she ignored my right of access to an interpreter. She threw me in the cell.

    Police officers are not alone. The prosecutors and the defense lawyers are not aware about Miranda warning that, you have the right to remain silent until getting an interpreter.

    Conviction is the main goal.


  2. It’s worth noting that in one of the pictures I inserted in this piece, you can see a young woman being handcuffed. That picture links to an educational Web site for police. The article is entitled “Creative Cuffing for the Small Wristed.” (Read that as women.) I find it fascinating that cops have time to work out intricate methods of handcuffing people, but can’t seem to find the time to learn how to communicate with the Deaf. Just my 2 cents worth.


  3. Yes. I thought the same. The hand/feet cuffing is “overkill.” Where will the lady run off to? She is already in a maximum security prison! All the handcuffing makes no sense. And if the detectives really wanted to be successful in getting accurate information from her, they should have called in a sign language interpreter.


  4. Attention should also be paid to #5 on the little card. I was unaware that you have the right to stop speaking if you wish. I always thought that if you acknowledge your understanding of the rights and then waive them, that the deed is done. Apparently, that’s not the case. You can revert to the mute stance at any time during questioning.

    Then again, I’m not a lawyer, so…


    1. Not only do you have the right not to speak, you have the right to say, “I want an attorney and I do not want to say one more word until I have an attorney.” and questioning MUST stop. However, the cops can stop by periodically with coffee and donuts (or some other pretext) and if you start talking it is on the head of the prisoner.

      No one in their right mind would talk to the cops without an attorney present. Even a lawyer. I once had cops break into my place (wrong house) and the first thing I did (while one pointed a gun at me) was to call my lawyer (whom I happened to work for) and every question I was asked was filtered through her. I’m sure she was nervous as she did public utilitiy work, but not more nervous than I was staring across the counter and my 4 year old child down the barrell of a cop’s gun.


  5. I have almost finished writing about my story and then I will add information about another arrest.

    “Then put one handcuff on her right wrist to the chain on the bar on the floor. She now had one hand free to sign.”

    What happened to me is that my friend, who was visiting in me jail, yelled (loudly) at the detention officer. She asked that the handcuff be taken off one of my hands, and the detention officer finally took one handcuff off my hand.

    She went to see the supervisor to complain about the detention officer. She was very brave.


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