The tale of the piña.

A few years ago, my friend Flaco, who has been a Court Interpreter for many years, told a group of us the following story.

He (Flaco) had some time to kill (no pun intended here) in between his cases in Superior court, so he decided to sit in and observe the initial hearing in a murder trial. The accused defendant was a Mexican national who spoke little or no English. His attorney was a man known for a little flamboyance and a little more ego to top it off with. The defendant entered his plea of not guilty, to which the judge reminded him that if convicted, he could receive the death penalty. He then asked if he understood this.

The attorney looked at his client and interpreted the judge’s statement to him in Spanish. Evidently, the attorney didn’t feel he would need an interpreter. He felt pretty good about himself and his abilities to speak a little above average Español. He could take care of this himself, right? Why spend the bucks? He turned to his client and explained that if convicted, he could receive “la piña de muerte”. Upon hearing this, many of the Spanish speakers in attendance began laughing; nervously laughing, but laughing nonetheless. The defendant looked about nervously as the judge called for order. Once again, the judge asked if he understood this. The attorney repeated the same interpretation to his client. Similar response from the court room but with less volume this time.

I can’t exactly recall how the hearing ended, it’s been several years since I first heard that story. Anyway, what the attorney had meant to say to his client was that if convicted, he could receive “la pena de muerte”. Penalty of death; the death penalty. What he had told his client was that he could receive “the pineapple of death”.

Neither of these sound like a good thing.