Powell, James E. jr.

Afro American/Black
Gang member
Murder victim
Member of a Los Angeles deaf gang, he was visiting his girlfriend's apartment. Three members of a rival deaf gang, Howard Love (q.v.), Val Lamar Smith (q.v.) and one other unidentified, saw Powell enter the apartment and decided to settle a gang dispute. They confronted Powell, fought with him, and Smith then shot Powell fatally. Police eventually arrested Smith and Love, but the arrest and pretrial hearings caused controversy over whether the two accused had had proper sign language interpretation, since they used Black American Sign Language, very different from regular ASL. The case was also unusual in that not only were defendant, victim, and witnesses were all deaf, the trial judge, Michael Farrell, described himself as "hearing impaired", having lost more than half of his own hearing as a result of Army service as a tank crew member. After a convoluted trial, a rarely-used "slow plea" procedure was used in which Smith did not plead guilty and admitted nothing but still was sentenced to 15 years to life. As of 2001, an appeal based on Smith's not having his full constitutional rights because of bad interpretation was still working its way through the courts.
Deaf Target, p.85-92.
1965?-10 January 1992