DOJ doesn't want attorney's Indian status mentioned

The Department of Justice is asking a federal judge to prevent a prominent Indian attorney from mentioning his Indian status or his prior work in the U.S. Attorney's Office during the trial of a Pueblo leader.

Sam Winder is a member of the Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado. He served as an assistant federal prosecutor in New Mexico before starting his own private practice.

One of Winder's clients is Linda Diaz, the lieutenant governor of Pojoaque Pueblo, who has been charged in connection with a fatal hit-and-run on the reservation. As part of the case, DOJ says Winder shouldn't be allowed to bring up his tribal membership or his federal service during her trial.

"On at least one occasion before this Court, defense counsel invoked his own status as a Native American during oral argument," federal prosecutors said in a motion filed this this week. "The United States asserts that a similar argument before the jury would be irrelevant, may tend to confuse the jury, could tend to suggest that his status cloaks him with unique standing to question the United States’ charging decisions, and may improperly suggest that the United States’ actions in this case are motivated by bad faith."

Diaz, 52, is accused of striking Phillip Espinosa, 31, along a highway on the reservation. She allegedly left the scene and did not report the incident to tribal police until April 5, 2009, a day later.

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