9th Circuit affirms prosecution in O'odham case
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed federal prosecution of a man who attempted to murder two members of the Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona.

Miguel Angel Ramirez claimed that his victims were not "Indian" within the meaning of 18 U.S. Code Section 1152. The section only applies to "crimes committed in Indian Country by non-Indians against Indians," the 9th Circuit noted.

The term "Indian" is not defined in the law but courts look to factors such as degree of Indian blood and recognition of a person as an Indian. Teresa Valenzuela and her mother, Dolores Valenzuela, provided sufficient documentation of their tribal membership to warrant Ramirez's prosecution, the 9th Circuit said.

"Thus, the evidence was sufficient to establish both Dolores's and Teresa's status as 'Indians' within the meaning of Section 1152," the court wrote in the unanimous decision. "Accordingly, we hold that the district court correctly ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the case."

The court also rejected Ramirez's other attempts to overturn a jury conviction for the attempted murders of Teresa and Dolores Valenzuela.

9th Circuit Decision:
US v. Ramirez (August 11, 2008)