United States v. Zepeda

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 09-19-2013
  • Case #: 10-10131
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judges Fernandez; Dissent by Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

Providing a certified degree of Indian blood, by itself, is not sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is an Indian for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 1153.

Damien Zepeda was tried and convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1153 as a result of a shooting which occurred on the Ak-Chin Indian Reservation of Arizona. In order to try Zepeda under § 1153, it is necessary for the indictment to allege, and the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant is an Indian. Zepeda appealed multiple decisions regarding his status as an Indian. Zepeda's defense counsel stipulated to entry of a certified degree of Indian blood into evidence, the district court did not err in allowing entry of the evidence. The government provided no evidence that the tribe indicated on the admitted certified degree of Indian blood was a tribe recognized by the federal government. The Ninth Circuit held that because there exists two nations of the tribe indicated on the certificate, one in Arizona and one in Mexico, and the government did not produce other evidence of Zepeda's tribal affiliation, no reasonable juror could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that Zepeda is an Indian for the purposes of § 1153. A conspiracy conviction against Zepeda was unaffected by this holding. REVERSED in part and REMANDED for resentencing.

Advanced Search