9th Circuit withdraws decision for defendant's Indian status

For the second time this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has withdrawn an opinion affecting a criminal defendant's Indian status.

In January, the court ruled that federal prosecutors did not prove Damien Zepeda, who possesses a "Certificate of Enrollment" from the Gila River Indian Community, is a member of a federally recognized tribe. The decision reversed several convictions that resulted in a lengthy, 90-year sentence.

The 9th Circuit, however, on Tuesday withdrew the decision and said it would file a new one "in due course." But the reasons for doing so weren't entirely clear.

"We don't know what the actual input from the 9th Circuit Court is right now, so it would be speculative to comment on what they're going to put out," a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, which had asked the court to rehear the case, told the Associated Press.

In April, the 9th Circuit withdrew a decision that said an "unauthenticated" enrollment document from the Colorado River Indian Tribes was insufficient to prove defendant Edgar Alvirez's Indian status. At the time, the court said it was doing so because it was considering the request for a rehearing in the Zepeda case.

But Tuesday's order said the government’s request was "moot" so it's not clear what will happen in both cases.

Get the Story:
Court withdraws ruling in Indian status case (AP 8/20)

9th Circuit Decisions:
US v. Zepeda [Original Opinion](January 18, 2013)
Withdrawal of Opinion (August 20, 2013)

Related Stories:
9th Circuit to resolve tribal membership issues in crime cases (4/19)
9th Circuit rules tribal document isn't proof of 'Indian' status (3/18)
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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