DNA Evidence in Slaying Allowed Despite Translation Issues When Accused Told Rights: Judge

DNA evidence collected from a man suspected of killing a Google employee from New York in Massachusetts is allowed despite translation issues when the accused was informed of his rights, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Janet Kenton-Walker denied a motion to suppress DNA samples collected from Angelo Colon-Ortiz by state police in March 2017.

Colon-Ortiz has been charged with murder in the death of Vanessa Marcotte, 27, who went missing in 2016 while out for a run in Princeton, approximately 40 miles west of Boston. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Colon-Ortiz's lawyers argued that the DNA samples were acquired illegally because not only did police not have a warrant, but a consent form explaining Colon-Ortiz's rights in Spanish was improperly translated. They also argued that the state police did not send a trooper with sufficient Spanish translation skills to his residence.

Kenton-Walker said that despite the issue with the form, "Considering the totality of circumstances in this case, the consent form, together with the interview with police, conveyed" that officials were wanting a DNA sample.

She did acknowledge that the form was "a very poor translation," according to the Telegram & Gazette.

Eduardo Masferrer, Colon-Ortiz's attorney, said he was "disappointed" with Kenton-Walker's decision and may appeal.

In an email, Masferrer said the ruling, as well as a related 2019 ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court in a similar case, tells law enforcement that they "do not need to translate documents or clearly explain rights to a non-English speaker," the Telegram & Gazette reported.

The defense first filed the motion in the Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts on December 14, 2018, according to MassLive.com. It was later amended and filed again on June 23, 2020.

Angelo Colon-Ortiz, Motion Denied, DNA Samples Allowed
On Tuesday, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ruled that DNA evidence collected from a man suspected of killing a Google employee in Massachusetts is allowed despite translation issues when the accused was informed of his rights. Above, a courtroom is seen in the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Boston. Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Colon-Ortiz barely understood the trooper's translation, Masferrer said.

"The court clearly indicated that the form raised 'serious concerns' and is the product of carelessness" and contained "a litany of errors," Masferrer said in a statement.

Although the form was largely "confusing and nonsensical to a non-English speaker," the court found that because one sentence was clear, his client would understand the rights he was giving up, he said.

According to prosecutors, Colon-Ortiz's DNA matched DNA found underneath Marcotte's fingernails.

Marcotte was visiting her mother in 2016 when she failed to return from a run. Her body was found hours later in the nearby woods.

Colon-Ortiz worked as a delivery driver at the time of the killing and was familiar with Princeton and the surrounding area, prosecutors have said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.