(Dallas Morning News) There's no doubt Stephen Matthew Brodie's deafness contributed to his wrongful conviction nearly two decades ago for the sexual assault of a 5-year-old Richardson girl.
He was finally exonerated this week – becoming the nation's first deaf exoneree – after a judge heard about a plethora of missteps by Richardson police and declared him innocent.
But in many ways not much has changed among police and prosecutors since Brodie was falsely convicted. The Dallas County district attorney's office, which asked a judge to release Brodie, still has no policy to deal with deaf defendants but acknowledged Friday that Brodie's case has made authorities realize they need one.
And not all police departments follow what are considered best practices while interrogating deaf defendants.
For example, prosecutors don't routinely check whether a deaf defendant had a certified interpreter during police questioning, or whether the defendant's written words would have a different meaning in American Sign Language.
Defense attorneys Amber D.F. Elliott and Tim Menchu, who both know ASL, say many of the problems in Brodie's case would not have happened with a hearing suspect. And, as egregious as those problems were, they say the situation could easily happen again.
"There are still problems," said Elliott, an Austin defense attorney who worked with Brodie's attorneys to review the 18 hours of interrogation he went through over eight days.
Scott Drake talks with Amber DF Elliot