Law

9th Circuit rules tribal document isn't proof of 'Indian' status





An "unauthenticated" enrollment document from the Colorado River Indian Tribes isn't sufficient to prove a defendant's "Indian" status, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

Edgar Alvirez, Jr. was convicted of assault resulting in serious bodily injury for an incident on the Hualapai Reservation in Arizona in November 2009. Federal prosecutors said Alvirez broke the ankle of Drametria Havatone, a member of the Hualapai Tribe.

But federal prosecutors never proved Alvirez is an "Indian" under the Major Crimes Act, the 9th Circuit ruled. The CRIT Certificate of Indian blood listed Alvirez's blood quantum but no one authenticated it in court, the decision stated.

"Absent admission of the certificate, it is questionable whether the government would have established Alvirez’s Indian status to the satisfaction of the jury, because the only other evidence of Indian status was Havatone’s testimony that Alvirez lived on the reservation and was a member of the Hualapai Tribe," the court ruled.

As a result, the 9th Circuit vacated Alvirez’s conviction and remanded the case to the federal district court. Federal prosecutors will be able to retry Alvirez and possibly authenticate the CRIT document.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, US v. Alvirez.

9th Circuit Decision:
US v. Alvirez (March 14, 2013)

Related Stories:
9th Circuit reverses conviction over Indian status of defendant (1/21)