County District Court File No. 53-CR-16-420
Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kathleen
A. Kusz, Nobles County Attorney, Travis J. Smith, Special
Assistant County Attorney, Slayton, Minnesota (for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Lydia
Maria Villalva Lijó, Assistant Public Defender, St.
Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Reilly,
Judge; and Reyes, Judge.
an interpreter contemporaneously translates a criminal
defendant's foreign-language statement to law
enforcement, absent a motive to mislead or distort, or other
facts indicating miscommunication or inaccuracy, the
interpreter's translation may be regarded as the
statement of the defendant.
When the state seeks to admit into evidence a criminal
defendant's admission made through an interpreter, upon a
Confrontation Clause or hearsay objection, a district court
must determine as a preliminary fact question whether the
interpreter's translation can fairly be attributable to
the defendant, or whether the interpreter is an independent
When a defendant is deemed the declarant of his or her
translated statement, the Confrontation Clause is not
implicated, and the statement is admissible as a party
admission under Minn. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(A).
direct appeal from final judgment of conviction and sentence
for first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC), appellant
Cesar Rosario Lopez-Ramos argues that his rights under the
Confrontation Clause were violated when an interpreter who
translated his foreign-language statements during a police
interrogation was not present to testify at trial and the
translated statements were admitted into evidence through a
video recording and an officer's testimony. Lopez-Ramos
also challenges the admission of his translated statements on
hearsay grounds. Because the district court did not err in
its determination that the interpreter in this case acted as
a "language conduit" and was not a declarant, and
therefore no Confrontation Clause or hearsay issues exist, we
2016, the state charged Lopez-Ramos with one count of
first-degree CSC alleging that he engaged in sexual
penetration with a minor under 13 years of age in April 2016.
Lopez-Ramos is from Guatemala and he immigrated to the United
States in 2016. His first language is Mam, Spanish is his
second language, and he does not speak English fluently.
April 2016, Nobles County child protection received a report
expressing concern about a 12-year-old child due to
"hickeys" on her neck. Child protection contacted
police and Worthington Police Officer Daniel Brouillet began
investigating. Brouillet spoke to the child's parents,
who said that they suspected Lopez-Ramos.
10, Officer Brouillet located Lopez-Ramos, who agreed to give
a statement to police. Police brought Lopez-Ramos to an
interview room, and they recorded the entire interrogation on
video. At the beginning of the interrogation, Brouillet
telephoned a foreign-language interpretation service for a
Spanish interpreter. The interpreter was placed on speaker
phone, and he translated the officer's questions from
English to Spanish and then translated Lopez-Ramos's
statements back to the officer from Spanish to English.
the interrogation Lopez-Ramos admitted that he had sexual
intercourse with the child in this case:
OFFICER BROUILLET (OB): So a couple months ago, maybe a month
ago, there was some talk between [the child's] dad . . .
and you about something that happened between you and [the
child]. Can you explain that?
LOPEZ-RAMOS BY INTERPRETER (LR/I): Uh-huh.
OB: Do you know what incident I'm talking about?
OB: Okay. Can you explain?
LR/I: Everything that happened was because she wanted to.
That's not, things didn't happen the way she is
telling. Everything that happened is because she wanted to,
not the way she is telling it.
OB: Okay, so tell me what happened in your, what was she
doing? This is your time to explain your side of the story.
LR/I: I got home from work. She got home from school. She
started playing jokes, or you could say she started kidding
Um, then I told her to stop making jokes or kidding me and
then she . . . told me to get into a little room and, um,
after that well, I said I did not want to disturb anyone.
After that I don't remember well what happened. I
don't remember how things happened after that.
OB: Okay. Well, what happened?
LR/I: We had intercourse with her.
OB: Okay. And how long ago was this?
LR/I: Just now about a month ago.
OB: Okay. And how many times did you have intercourse with
LR/I: Just that one time. Nothing else.
OB: Okay. Did you use a ...