J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

Grassley on VAWA: 'The Non-Indian Doesn't Get a Fair Trial'



As the Violence Against Women Act discussion moves to the Congressional side of D.C. following its Senate passing on February 12, some senators are still opposed to it. Take Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on February 21 at a town hall meeting in Indianola said non-Indians would not receive a fair trail on reservations.

Grassley who had an amendment to the VAWA bill in the Senate that was voted down on February 7 was one of 22 senators who voted against it. All of them were Republican men.

The Grassley/Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) amendment was opposed to providing greater support to LGBT, undocumented, and Native women from domestic violence according to thinkprogress.org.

The main argument by members in Senate and the House has been that VAWA is unconstitutional in its tribal provisions that would give tribal governments the ability to try non-Natives for crimes against women on tribal land.

Grassley can be seen in the video below talking about juries and saying that “the jury is supposed to be a reflections of society… 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.”

Grassley may not be aware of a couple things that should be considered in the discussion.

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.

According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” according to thinkprogress.org. “Also, Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have aright to a jury which is ‘drawn from a fair cross section of the community’ where the trial court convenes to hear the case.”

Grassley’s Senatorial colleague, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) said it best while speaking on the Senate floor on February 7 during the VAWA hearings, “Now I want to say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, because I’ve heard some of them say that somehow this violates the civil liberties of non-Native Americans if these crimes happen in Indian country. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“First of all, all tribal courts also adhere to the Indian Civil Rights Act which is basically our 14th Amendment. So that security of the 14th Amendment is right there in the law and will protect any non-Native American that is charged with this crime on a reservation.

“Secondly, this law has specifically broad language making sure that the defendant would be protected with all rights required by the United States in order for this jurisdiction to have oversight. So it is almost like a double protection saying twice that Habeas Corpus rights of individuals are going to be protected under this statute.

“The notion that this is somehow abrogating individual rights just because the crime takes place on a tribal reservation is incorrect. So I ask my colleagues, do you want to continue to have this unbelievable growth and petri dish of crime evolving? Because criminals know, when you have a porous border that is where they are going to go.”

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Michael No Heart's picture
Michael No Heart
Submitted by Michael No Heart on
I just emailed Grassley my views and thoughts on his decision since I live in Iowa and I am sickened by him. I have never voted in my life time but that has changed. I have never been politically active but that has now changed, I have been complacent on sitting and watching and learning. Now it's time to step it up! I will get involved as much as possible to get Grassley out of office and people like him. They (republicans) sure now how to get votes for the opposition!!!

Pediowoman's picture
Submitted by Pediowoman on
The USA is notorious for demanding “immunity” when offending “Americans” do outrageous things. An excellent example now is in Afghanistan, Iraq & Pakistan where the USA does not want “contractors”, military personnel and other Americans punished in the country they are in or by that country’s judicial system. By giving white males (as most of the offenders are whether they are on the reservation or in foreign lands) immunity from rape, murder, torture or any number of crimes due to fear of unfair treatment is just a cover. The truth is by allowing human rights to be violated and the violators to be either quietly shipped out, given a “fair” trial by a jury of their “peers”, or what is usually done, swept under the rug a message is being sent. One that says white Americans are better than the “others" they abuse. It is a way to intimidate, control and show the savage heathens not only that they deserve what they get but they are too backward and ignorant to be capable of administrating fair and swift justice to “superior” people.

marcbowlegs's picture
Submitted by marcbowlegs on
A blatantly racist comment by an ignorant racist. He is saying that Indians do not have the capacity for fair judgement, which is especially ironic given his disgraceful record of fairness and judgement.

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
The whites feel it is their right to go anywhere on Indigenous lands and steal, rape and murder. They've stolen the easily reached minerals and resources. They've contaminated every thing they have touched. Our leaders are too chicken to say anything, it may interfere with whatever money they get from begging. They have no though processes of even developing their own natural resources. Our so called career leaders, made it their careers to be stuck inside of a box, with intellectual and philisophical parameters foisted on them by colonial powerds, with no leeway to get out of having their resources and lands stolen

Phil's picture
Submitted by Phil on
Tribal courts have no authority to call non-members to jury duty. They can only call members.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Indians are going to be racist to us. -White Republican Male Senator

wisgriz's picture
Submitted by wisgriz on
I believe the people at ICT should also include three Democratic Senators that are supposedly "FRIENDS" to Indian Country. They are Al Franken who was on this site speaking of Paul Wellstone in a previous story. The other one is Amy Kloubchar, both of them are Liberal Senators and represent the interest's of both Minnesota Tribal groups. The other is Wisconsin Democratic Tammy Baldwin. She is the first lesbian senator to be elected to the senate. She along with Ron Johnson represent the tribal community's of Wisconsin. These three Democratic senators voted against the part where Tribal courts prosecute non-Indian offenders in Tribal court. I know this to be true because it was printed on the 2/17/13 edition of the Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press Newspaper. Why is ICT not publishing their votes on this site instead of going after Grassely? The irony is this site has published articles of various Indian voices (Gyasi Ross) and others in favor of LGBT rights. The bill VAWA has many provisions toward LGBT. It's an irony Baldwin votes against it. Where is ICT uproar over her vote? One speaks against LGBT. Your consider a a bigot or racist. How come Baldwin in particular votes against it. Is she a Bigot? She also gets away with it as well as the two senators from Minnesota. Is the this site becoming narrow and bigoted in their choice of who in the political realm that is against the interests of Indian Country? PLEASE don't hold back the complete truth on BOTH political party's in their regard to Indian Country. WisGriz

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
Why does America refuse to join the World Criminal Court at the Hague? You have to get to the root cause of the reason, just as you have to get to the root cause of "terrorism" and what makes the Middle East people want to kill themselves in order to kill as many Americans as possible. American policy is to invade or destabilize other countries and governments, to allow multi national or transglobal conglomerates to steal their minerals and natural resources. Americans think it is normal for us to spend trillions of dollars manipulating assassinations and coups to set up and prop up despot murderous 2 bit dictators, who are bribed to keep their people in line while the profits go into the neo con owned oil, emergy and mining conglomerates and their bribed dictators coffers. We torture, murder and steal and our government think its normal, but if not, they stay away from the International Criminal Court. Our leaders have no testicles to even protest the theft of their peoples minerals, natural resources and lands, or even their peoples rights. Too many of our leaders have turned to the whiteman ways of theft and murder at the expense of their people.

Watchdog's picture
Submitted by Watchdog on
This VAWA is a sexist tarbaby...once you have your foot in the tarbaby, you are stuck. Now, if the bill was VAACA - Violence Against American Citizens Act, then it would fit with the tenents of the American Way. Let the scale of justsice swing both ways rather than submit to the current campaign to divide, undermine and destroy the USA.

james redbear's picture
james redbear
Submitted by james redbear on
Why are whites even allowed to live on Native American Reservations?

PL's picture
Submitted by PL on
All good comments that are full of fact and truth. The discrimination and ignorance about sovereignty by such political persons is blatant. But there cannot be a fair decision made by the U.S. congress. It's an oxymoron when it comes to serving American Indians equally.

Bonnie Brown's picture
Bonnie Brown
Submitted by Bonnie Brown on
As a former Iowan and someone who once interviewed Sen. Grassley, I am very disappointed that he did not express more depth of knowledge and understanding on this crucial area of law and justice. If fairness is at the center of his concern, he would have supported VAWA wholeheartedly.