Why haven’t Republicans passed the Violence Against Women Act? Well on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley added a new reason: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.
For the record: Chuck Grassley was among the 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. So, during a town hall meeting in Indianapolis, a woman asked him why he opposed the bill. Grassley claims that VAWA is unconstitutional.
(Stay with me now)
Think Progress reports:
Because the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, he reasoned that white men would be deprived of their rights if those who were accused of violence against Native American women had to appear in a tribal court. “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”
GRASSLEY: One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court. And why is that a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it, for two reasons. One, you know how the law is, that if you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. […] So you get non-Indians, let me say to make it easy, you get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman. They need to be prosecuted. They aren’t prosecuted. So the idea behind [VAWA] is we’ll try them in tribal court. 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.
But no matter how much Grassley reaches, he’s still wrong.
First of all, there is no requirement that juries reflect “society as a whole.” The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” and Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have a right to a jury which is “drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” where the trial court convenes to hear their case. But this does not entitle anyone to be tried by a jury that reflects the whole of American society.
At least he should be honest before trying to explain in a dubious fashion why his party does not support women.
As reported here, A version of the VAWA had been in effect for 20 years before it was allowed to expire in 2011 because of Republican objections to provisions to the new bill. Those new provisions protected lesbians and gays, Native Americans who are attacked by non-Indians on tribal land, and immigrants.