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9th Circuit to resolve tribal membership issues in crime cases

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider two decisions involving the "Indian" status of criminal defendants.

In US v. Zepeda, the court held that a "certificate of enrollment" from the Gila River Indian Community was insufficient proof of a defendant's "Indian" status under the Major Crimes Act. Similarly, in US v. Alvirez, the court held that an "unauthenticated" enrollment document from the Colorado River Indian Tribes was insufficient.

The court will be considering an en banc petition in Zepeda. As a result, the decision in Alvirez was withdrawn on Monday.

Both cases came from Arizona. The outcome of the en banc petition could settle the issue for the entire 9th Circuit, which also includes tribes in California, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Alaska.

In a third case, US v. PMB, the 9th Circuit ordered an acquittal for a juvenile who lived on the Navajo Nation. The court said there was no evidence that showed he was a member of a federally recognized tribe.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from US v. Alvirez and US v. Zepeda

9th Circuit Decisions:
US v. Alvirez (April 15, 2013)
US v. PMB, Juvenile Male (April 9, 2013)
US v. Alvirez (March 14, 2013)
US v. Zepeda (January 18, 2013)

Related Stories:
Appeals court orders acquittal of juvenile over 'Indian' status (04/10)
9th Circuit reverses conviction over Indian status of defendant (1/21)
9th Circuit ruling reduces long sentence for 'Indian' defendant (01/25)
9th Circuit reverses conviction over Indian status of defendant (1/21)

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