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June 3, 2004

6/3/04 Court reporters make accommodation for deaf man in court

From: Lufkin Daily News - Lufkin,TX,USA - Jun 3, 2004

The Lufkin Daily News

Appearing in court can be an overwhelming process, especially if you have a disability that shuts out most of the legal goings-on around you.

Thanks to the quick thinking of two nimble-fingered court reporters, the wheels of justice were able to turn smoothly and fairly for one hearing-impaired man on Tuesday.

The two reporters, Candace Parke in state District Judge David Wilson's court and Debora Lee of county Court-At-Law Judge Lisa Burkhalter's court, installed a system to allow the man to read court testimony in "real time," on a laptop computer.

Robert Marr, 43, who had recently lost his hearing, was up before Wilson to enter a plea on a felony driving while intoxicated charge.

The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes real-time reporting as a "reasonable accommodation" for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, according to the National Court Reporters Association.

Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART, is a word-for-word speech-to-text interpreting service used for court participants to read along, according to the association.

With only a slight delay, Marr on Tuesday was able to read almost instantly as Wilson and the prosecution and defense attorneys were speaking.

"Are you able to understand my questions by the use of this laptop?" Wilson asked Marr.

"Yes," Marr replied, nodding his head.

With Parke typing and Lee, who sat next to Marr, clarifying, the two were able to pull it off with only slight errors.

"At one point I messed up and typed 'Oops, I made a mistake,' and (Marr) laughed," Parke said.

Court-reporting computers have intelligence software, known as "dictionaries," and are trained to recognize certain word entry methods or phrases and correct them, Lee said.

A case number read aloud and then typed as "one-eight-four-six-three," would correct itself to "18,463" for court records.

"The dictionary understood Judge Wilson," Parke said.

The two reporters insisted on giving each other credit for the success, finally chalking it up to good teamwork.

Marr, who goes for kidney dialysis three times a week, pleaded guilty to the DWI charge. He was sentenced to four years of prison and fined $1,000. As conditions of his probation, he also must submit to drug testing and enroll in a DWI educational program, and follow other requirements.

Ashley Cook's e-mail address is

© 2004 Cox Newspapers, Inc. - The Lufkin Daily News