October 13, 2011

Courts okay jury bias against Indians

Racial bias involving Utah tribal member won’t go before high court

By Melinda RogersAn American Indian man convicted of assaulting a federal officer — by jurors who made racist comments about the defendant—has exhausted his appeals options.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear the case of Kerry Dean Benally, 39, who was sentenced in June 2010 to 57 months in prison.

Benally’s sentencing came after a three-year delay, because Benally’s conviction was overturned when a judge learned jurors made racially biased comments during deliberations.

The sentence for Benally was later reinstated.

Benally was convicted in October 2007 of punching a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer and hitting him in the face with a flashlight. The officer had followed Benally because he was driving erratically in the White Mesa area in southeastern Utah and appeared intoxicated.

The day after the conviction, a juror came forward and reported that the jury foreman said: “When Indians get alcohol, they all get drunk and ... violent,” according to court documents.

Other jurors spoke about “sending a message to the reservation” with a guilty verdict for Benally. Another juror spoke about being angry at people who “mess with police officers and get away with it,” court documents state.
Comment:  Wow. I would've thought this was an extremely clear miscarriage of justice deserving another trial, at least. Shows what I know!

The Native stereotypes here occurred earlier, but the Supreme Court condoned these stereotypes by declining to take the case. Therefore, this case gets a Stereotype of the Month nomination now.

For a similar case, see Judge:  "Go Native" = "huge violence."

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