Pleading the Sixth: SCOTUS Decision Exposes Unequal Justice for Native Americans
Date:  06-24-2016

Double standard of justice applies to indigent Native defendants
From The Sixth Amendment Center

On June 13, 2016, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held in United States v. Bryant that the use of prior convictions from tribal courts as predicate offenses in federal courts does not violate the Constitution even when those prior tribal court convictions were obtained against an uncounselled indigent defendant and resulted in jail time. In plain English, this means that an indigent defendant can be denied a lawyer in a tribal court and sentenced to up to one year incarceration, and that uncounselled conviction can then be used to make the defendant eligible for more punitive sentencing in the federal courts.

In 1967 the Court reached the exact opposite conclusion in Burgett v. Texas , where the Court held that it would violate the Sixth Amendment to allow a prior state or federal conviction obtained in violation of the Sixth Amendment to either support guilt or increase penalties in other proceedings. Why the apparent double standard of justice for native people? Read more