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People of Illinois v. Lang

  • By: Joseph Dewey
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

The singular circumstances surrounding the murder trials of the deaf individual Donald Lang, the first in 1965 and the second 7 years later, underscore the dilemma of deaf defendants who cannot follow court proceedings (Lang was illiterate, had never been taught sign language, and could not lip-read) and, more broadly, considerations for how best to both protect the public interest and preserve the defendant’s constitutional rights to a fair and speedy trial. Can the courts convict a language-less deaf defendant with no concept of the trial process or even the concept of his own right to a zealous defense?

Although Lang shared little of his life story even with his own lawyers, hospital records indicate Lang had lost his hearing when he was 6 months old ...

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