Law | National

Reporter: Criminal justice lacking on reservations in New Mexico






"“It’s not safe. There’s no safety. You can’t trust anybody. You got to protect yourself,” Rebekah Apachito says. As one of about 1,600 tribal members who live in the Navajo community of To’hajiilee, 90 miles west of Santa Fe, she has good reason to be afraid: According to federal crime data, Native American women are 10 times more likely than the average American to be murdered. Even more shockingly, approximately one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime.

Bright sunshine streams through gaps in the curtains covering Apachito’s windows, illuminating a photo of her son, Jordan, wearing a cap and gown at his 2008 graduation, and another of her mother in a traditional Navajo dress. It’s her day off from her job at a health facility in Albuquerque, and Apachito is dressed casually in a loose red jersey and black pants. Her dark hair is somewhat disheveled from rounding up her seven dogs—along with deadbolts, window locks and a shotgun, they’re her way of protecting herself.

She gazes out the window, holding back tears. Apachito was visiting her mother in a nursing home when violence shook her life, but she recounts her son’s version of the story: Codie Willie, a 22-year-old also from To’hajiilee, allegedly broke in through a back door of Apachito’s home and demanded to take whatever he wanted. Jordan’s federal file states that Willie had a .48 blood-alcohol content and traces of marijuana in his system. (In New Mexico, .08 is considered legally drunk.) According to what Jordan told his mother, Willie refused to leave and made actions that appeared to be menacing, so Jordan shot him.

“He felt threatened. It was self-defense,” Apachito says.

But the federal judge assigned to rule on the case didn’t see it that way. Willie suffered gunshot wounds to most of his internal organs and is now permanently disabled; the judge sentenced Jordan to four years in federal prison for assault with a deadly weapon."

Get the Story:
Justice Denied (The Santa Fe Reporter 10/2)