BENTONVILLE — At least five court interpreters will be needed if a 22-year-old facing a capital murder charge in a killing at an Arkansas apartment complex goes to trial.
Mei Ka Sin, who speaks Burmese, is accused of killing one of his roommates at their apartment in the part of Springdale in Benton County.
Rwabuzisoni Daniel died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to court documents. An anonymous caller on July 17, 2017, told Springdale police someone had been shot. Officers found Daniel, 21, dead in one of the units at Chapel Ridge Apartments, 5323 N. Oak St.
Burmese, Karen, Marshallese, Kirundi and Spanish interpreters are needed for the trial, which is set to begin April 8.
The Karen are an ethnic group from Burma. The military government changed the country's name to Myanmar in 1989. The U.S. government continues to use the name Burma, according to the State Department.
Kirundi (or Rundi) belongs to the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo family. It has about 6 million speakers, most of whom live in Burundi, a country in east-central Africa, according to Language Inc.
The interpreters will be present in the courtroom and not interpreting by telephone or video.
Joshua Robinson, a Benton County deputy prosecutor, said the different languages and interpreters will present some unique challenges, especially regarding the pace and flow of the presentation of the evidence. Robinson believes a jury will give the case its full attention.
"It is crucial that we seek justice for all members of our community, regardless of these types of challenges," he said. "Even though it is uncommon to have a jury trial with the variety of languages that exists in this case, I do not believe it will hamper our ability to obtain justice for the victim and his family."
Robby Golden, Sin's attorney, said he had never tried a case that needed more than one language interpreted. Cross-examination is the most difficult part with cases involving an interpreter, he said.
"Trying to pace your cadence and arguments so the interpreters have time to actually interpret what is being said is probably second," he said.
A Burmese interpreter is needed to translate the proceedings to Sin, Robinson said.
The Kirundi interpreter is needed to tell Daniel's family what is happening as the trial proceeds, he said. The interpreter may also be called if his family members testify during the trial.
The other interpreters — Marshallese, Spanish and Karen — are needed only for certain witnesses and will not have to be present for the entire trial, he said.
The Burmese and Kirundi interpreters will have to be present throughout the trial, Robinson said.
"We will have to get an exact order of our witnesses in order to assist with the interpreters," Robinson said.
Some of the interpreters will travel from another state for the trial, Robinson said.
The state's Court Interpreter Services has been asked to provide Spanish, Marshallese and an African language interpreter for the trial. Mara Simmons, with court Interpreter Services, said the interpreters will be provided, and they are still waiting to be told which African language will be used at trial.
Simmons said it's not unusual to have cases that involve different languages and numerous interpreters. Simmons said they had a case where they had to provide interpreters for Spanish and sign language, along with Arabic for one of the witnesses.
"It's challenging," Simmons said. "We have time to pull it all together."
A roommate told police he saw Sin and Daniel fight and Sin shot Daniel and then left, according to the probable cause affidavit.
A second witness told police she was in the apartment and saw Sin follow Daniel into a bedroom, according to the affidavit. She heard arguing and then gunshots. She told police Sin was holding a hunting rifle, according to the affidavit.
Police found spent shell casings on a bedroom floor and a shell casing in the bathroom.
Sin is being held without bail in the Benton County Jail. Prosecutors won't seek the death penalty, so Sin, if convicted, will be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.