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Court To Decide Whether Indian Tribe Can Prosecute Members of Other Tribes

April 24, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether an Indian tribe can prosecute members of other tribes for crimes on its reservation.

The court said it will review a ruling that gives the Salt River Pima- Maricopa Community in Arizona authority to prosecute a California man accused in the fatal shooting of a 14-year old boy.

The accused man is Albert Duro, 30, who is a member of a Mission Indian band.

The victim, Phillip Fernando Brown, was a member of a third tribe - the Gila River Indian tribe. The boy was shot to death on June 15, 1984, on the Salt River reservation near Scottsdale, Ariz.

Duro originally was charged with murder by the federal government. But those charges were dismissed.

The Salt River tribe then accused him of illegally discharging a gun on its reservation.

A federal judge threw out the tribe’s charge. But the judge was overruled last year by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the Salt River tribal court has jurisdiction in the case.

The appeals court noted that in 1984 Duro was living with his girlfriend on the Salt River reservation and was working for PiCopa Construction Co., which the tribe owns.

″These contacts justify the tribal court’s conclusion that Duro is an Indian subject to its criminal jurisdiction,″ the appeals court said. ″We stress that this is not purely a racial determination.″

″Extending tribal court criminal jursidiction to non-member Indians who have significant contacts with a reservation does not amount to a racial classification,″ the appeals court continued. We further find that this policy is reasonably related to the legitimate goal of improving law enforcement on reservations.″

The appeals court noted that the Supreme Court in 1978 ruled that an Indian tribe may not prosecute non-Indians for crimes on the reservation.

But the 9th Circuit court said that decision left unanswered whether a tribe would have authority to prosecute a member of another tribe in such cases.

The appeals court noted that tribal courts generally handle petty crimes by Indians against Indians, leaving federal courts to prosecute major crimes.

Duro’s lawyers said he is living in California and denied charges by the Salt River tribe that he is a fugitive.

The case is Duro vs. Reina, 88-6546.

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