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Sentencing Commission to consider Indian Country disparities

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: crime, jurisdiction

The U.S. Sentencing Commission will conduct a national study on sentencing disparities in Indian Country, The Fargo Forum reports.

Indian defendants often face harsher sentences than their counterparts would face in state court. Some federal judges, federal prosecutors and Indian law advocates are wondering why.

“The law needs to be changed and Indians need to be treated on an equal basis, the same as their white neighbors,” Judge Myron Bright of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals told the paper.

Bright has criticized the 10-year sentence for Dana Deegan, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation who was convicted for the death of her newborn son. He said the same crime would have been punished differently in North Dakota court.

The issue is the subject of an article in the current issue of the North Dakota Law Review. The authors want tribes to have a say in the process.

"Native American defendants’ sentences can better align with corresponding state sentences in cases in which an Indian tribe exercises jurisdiction over the territory where the crime occurred. The tribe may choose to permit the federal court to sentence in accordance with state law if a substantial disparity is shown," BJ Jones and Christopher Ironroad wrote in the article.

Get the Story:
Article scrutinizes disparities in sentencing on reservations (The Fargo Forum 3/23)

North Dakota Law Review Article:
Addressing Sentencing Disparities for Tribal Citizens in the Dakotas: A Tribal Sovereignty Approach (Volume 89, Number 1 2013)

8th Circuit Decision:
US v. Deegan (May 25, 2010)

Related Stories:
Federal judge calls for release of Indian woman in North Dakota (10/16)

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