Barriers to Justice: double jeopardy

Local News

In December, KX News presented a week of special reports diving into the history of the corrections system on tribal lands in North Dakota.

Now, we’re adding another piece to the puzzle with something called double jeopardy. That means being prosecuted twice for the same crime, something that is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment. However, because of legislation dating back to the 1800s, tribal citizens are not given the same protection.

This is an issue that law student Emily Nielsen has been passionate about since childhood. She shared a story with KX News about growing up five miles from the Fort Peck Reservation.

As a teenager, she saw this happen to a friend. Her classmate, a Fort Peck citizen once acquitted for manslaughter in Tribal court, was later sentenced to prison by a federal court judge for the same crime.

“With other people of color, minority groups, it’s more unwritten, especially within the criminal justice system. We look at, you know, Jim Crow laws, those things that have since been abolished but are still affecting people adversely. But I think with Native Americans, there is still legislation holding that Native Americans did not have to be treated in the same way, and so this double jeopardy problem is still a thing,” Nielsen, the University of St. Thomas law student elaborated.

The solution, according to Nielsen, should come from Congress giving Tribes the sovereignty, power, and resources back, to be able to try all cases that happen on their land.

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