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Non-English speakers can be jurors, New Mexico court says

The New Mexico Supreme Court is cautioning the state's trial courts that citizens who don't speak English have the right to serve on juries.

The court issued the admonition in a ruling that upholds an Albuquerque man's convictions for murder and other crimes in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend and a subsequent armed robbery and stabbing.

Michael Samora's appeal argued that his convictions should be reversed because the Bernalillo County court excused a Spanish-speaking prospective juror who had trouble understanding English.

The Supreme Court says it agrees with that argument but also says Samora's defense needed to object during the trial but didn't.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the state's Constitution "shall never be restricted, abridged or impaired on account of … (the) inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages."

The ruling issued Monday tells judges and lawyers that they must reasonable efforts to protect the rights of non-English speaking citizens to serve on juries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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