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Sen. Grassley: NO on VAWA

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  • Sen. Grassley: NO on VAWA

    Top GOP Senator: Native American Juries Are Incapable Of Trying White People Fairly

    By Scott Keyes on Feb 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    INDIANOLA, Iowa — Republicans have offered a number of reasons why they oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Some think it’s unconstitutional. Others argue that it’s just a meaningless bill with a patriotic title.

    On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added a new one: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.

    Last week, Grassley was one of just 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. During a town hall meeting in Indianola on Wednesday, a woman asked him to explain his vote. Grassley responded that the legislation is unconstitutional, a belief shared by at least five of his colleagues.

    Since the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, Grassley reasoned that white men would be deprived of their rights if those who were accused of violence against Native American women had to appear in a tribal court. “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

    GRASSLEY: One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court. And why is that a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it, for two reasons. One, you know how the law is, that if you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. [...] So you get non-Indians, let me say to make it easy, you get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman.

    They need to be prosecuted. They aren’t prosecuted. So the idea behind [VAWA] is we’ll try them in tribal court. But under the laws of our land, you got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.

    There is actually no requirement that juries reflect “society as a whole.” The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” and Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have a right to a jury which is “drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” where the trial court convenes to hear their case.

    But this does not entitle anyone to be tried by a jury that reflects the whole of American society.
    A person who is tried in Vermont is likely to have an all-white jury because over 95 percent of Vermont is white. Similarly, a person who commits a crime in the Navajo Nation will face a jury of Native Americans because the population of the local community is made up of Navajo people. There is no reason to believe that Navajo jurors are any less impartial than white Vermonters, and Grassley is wrong to suggest otherwise.

    Grassley went to great lengths to tell attendees that he had supported VAWA in the past. “I support 98 percent of what’s in the bill,” he said. If it weren’t for his belief that Native Americans’ are incapable of conducting a fair trial, perhaps he would have voted for it again.

    If you want Congress to reauthorize VAWA, sign ThinkProgress’ petition here.


    In an interview late last year with Huffington Post, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), one of two registered Native Americans in Congress, dismissed the notion put forth by Grassley that tribal courts are incapable of holding fair trials. “People seem to have this fantasy that Indians and courts are going to try to make up for what happened to them for hundreds of years of history,” said Cole. “That’s just not true.”


    Indian Country Today points to a report suggesting that many tribal court juries would likely be more diverse than juries in much of the United States:

    A recently released report by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center titled Policy Insight Brief titled, Statistics on Violence Against Native Women that states according to the 2010 U.S. Census “46 percent of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Native.”

    Almost half the reservation population would essentially lead to diversity on juries. The figure is as a whole in the United States, and there may be areas where this number is drastically lower, but that is where the Sixth Amendment comes in.

  • #2
    Originally posted by AmigoKumeyaay View Post
    On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

    46 percent of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Native.
    At face value, I get the point but the below data very much undermines it.


    • #3
      I had to rebut (heh heh "butt") on my blog.


      Every so often our elected officials in this country do or say something so overwhelmingly stupid it gives me a headache so sever I can only assume it is the result of my brain trying to escape my skull and leap to its death.

      There are many things we, as a nation do not, and probably will never agree upon. I simply thought we could find some common ground in agreeing that wife beating, and rape were generally a bad thing. Oh what a fool I was!

      As some of you know, the Violence Against Women Act died on the House of Representatives' floor last year when House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor blocked the re-authorization of the 1994 bill which included expansions to protect LGBT women, illegal immigrants, and American Indian Women. The republican party claimed to support traditional American values. Apparently these traditional American values include the long standing traditions of wife beating, and Indian raping. These were common accepted occurrences in 1912, but today? Is there really anything to debate? questions of basic human morality aside, did the GOP learn nothing when their infamous "War on Women" cost them the election last year?

      Fast-forward to today, VAWA was up for re-authorization again, but Republican leaders apparently still have not learned the exquisite art of not making deeply ignorant, embarrassingly obtuse, and generally asinine statements on things about which they know nothing.

      Take the case of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who voted against the act during this latest re-authorization. Unlike Cantor (who gave no reason for blocking the Act's re-authorization last year) came out and admitted the limited authority the Act would give tribal authorities to prosecute non-natives for domestic and sexual assault committed on tribal land was in his eyes, the deal breaker. Grassley actually had the audacity to argue that juries on an Indian reservation were simply not capable of giving a free trial to a non native.

      "If you have a jury," Grassley said "The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. Under the laws of our land, you've got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn't get a fair trial."

      If that were not enough, Senator Grassley's office released a statement claiming:

      "The Constitution requires that a trial by jury fairly represent a cross-section of the community and that no juror be denied the right to serve based on race. Membership in Indian tribes is racially defined by law and tribes are not required to allow non-members to serve on juries,"

      Okay, ignoring the many non-natives that live on reservations, lets observe the good senator's logic.

      Is he really saying that a jury made up primarily of one race could not possibly be impartial to a defendant of another ethnicity?

      Well senator, I'm sure the many incarcerated people of color convicted by an all white, or primarily white juries would agree with you.

      No senator. This is not a matter of race, it's a matter of human rights. it's a matter of not letting our great nation, meant to be the beacon of light and leadership for the rest of the free world allow a loophole in which a woman can be abused, or violated with no legal ramifications for her attacker stand. Face it senator, the only one making this a race issue is you. I imagine you assume that the assailants that will face prosecution will be white, and that he, or she will face a jury of 12 angry Indians who sit around smoking cigars, counting casino money while thinking of ways to "stick it to the white man". This is not the case. The assailant could be of any non-native race or even from an American Indian tribe other than the one on whose reservation the crime was committed. Contrary to what you may think, Indians don't want revenge. We just want oppressions (like a free-pass for getting raped, for example) to simply stop.

      The sad thing here is, the Republicans are kind of cutting their own constituency here. There are many, many American Indians who have conservative leanings, and you basically just told them all to go Fk themselves (or more accurately to involuntarily get fed by an assailant who might never see the inside of a courtroom for it).

      My outrage over this issue aside, the next time you're asked to vote on something, I do hope you will think about the big picture, instead of making knee-jerk decisions based on suspicions, and fears which have no basis in reality.
      Last edited by RestlessN8iv; 02-23-2013, 10:58 AM.
      "Don't trust anyone who isn't angry."
      - John Trudell

      "Don't trust anyone who isn't hungry."
      - Me


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