Top GOP Senator: Native American Juries Are Incapable Of Trying White People Fairly

In Washington, DC it’s no secret that Senator Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is not very bright.

Think Progress

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Republicans have offered a number of reasons why they oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Some think it’s unconstitutional. Others argue that it’s just a meaningless bill with a patriotic title.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added a new one: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.

Last week, Grassley was one of just 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. During a town hall meeting in Indianola on Wednesday, a woman asked him to explain his vote. Grassley responded that the legislation is unconstitutional, a belief shared by at least five of his colleagues.

Since the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, Grassley 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.


There is actually 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.

A person who is tried in Vermont is likely to have an all-white jury because over 95 percent of Vermont is white. Similarly, a person who commits a crime in the Navajo Nation will face a jury of Native Americans because the population of the local community is made up of Navajo people. There is no reason to believe that Navajo jurors are any less impartial than white Vermonters, and Grassley is wrong to suggest otherwise.

Grassley went to great lengths to tell attendees that he had supported VAWA in the past. “I support 98 percent of what’s in the bill,” he said. If it weren’t for his belief that Native Americans’ are incapable of conducting a fair trial, perhaps he would have voted for it again.

If you want Congress to reauthorize VAWA, sign ThinkProgress’ petition here.

When Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are “Family Values”

Taking a stand against domestic violence is a start.  Trying to get the idiots (on the Right)  in Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act is like pulling teeth.  And they claim there’s no war against women coming from their camp…

The People’s View

Domestic violence and sexual assault. The original and literal war on women. And now, the Republicans in Congress are refusing to re-authorize the assistance for abuse victims. Yesterday, Vice President Biden gave a sobering speech on the importance of the Violence Against Women Act, genuinely stunned that the GOP has gone down the road this far. Joe Biden is not a Johnny come lately to this fight. He is the original author of the VAWA. He is the original author of the law.

Republicans are blocking it in the Senate right now, and even if the Democrats can muster enough votes to overcome a filibuster, the Republican House is not so keen on bothering to stop domestic violence. Why? There are stuff in there that are not “consensus items”, argue Republicans.

 Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (R), who leads opposition to the law’s renewal, said, “I wish we could proceed in a consensus fashion again. But there are provisions in the bill before us that have never been part of VAWA before. They’re not consensus items.

Well, what are these non-consensus items that’s forcing the Republicans hands to put at risk resources to fight sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and physical abuse? What is the big poison pill? Not to spoil the surprise, but it’s teh gays, teh “illegals” and teh Indians.

If you ask why the Republicans are holding it up – other than their fierce hatred for anything the administration is for – they have an interesting answer: it’s because this version of VAWA includes protection for people who they do not believe deserve equal protection of the laws: LGBT people, undocumented immigrants, and native Americans. Because, you know, gay people don’t experience domestic violence (or maybe if we do), sexual battery against women is fine so long as the woman doesn’t have papers, and native American reservations don’t deserve any federal funds for housing and protecting victims of sexual assault because… well, just because.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has put together the most succinct statement rebutting the Republican disgraceful opposition to the bill.

 “Whether you are gay or straight, whether you are Caucasian or Native American, whoever you are–you should have access to services that protect you from domestic violence. It is very important for millions of American women all across the country.

“I ask those who are threatening to block this bill: If the victim is in a same-sex relationship, is the violence and danger any less real?

“If a family comes to this country and the husband beats his wife to a bloody pulp, do we say, ‘Well, you’re illegal, I’m sorry, you don’t deserve any protection?’

That is exactly what the Republicans are saying. If you’re gay, or transgender, then you deserve to be beaten up at home, and suffer sexual and physical assaults at the hands of a partner in the dark corner of social stigma and a lack of resources. If you are undocumented and your husband or boyfriend is assaulting you, you should have no place to go. If you’re a native American, you’re just shit outta luck.

There is another overarching, despicable umbrella point to conservative opposition of the Violence Against Women Act, and it is the conservative support for violence against women.

 Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land and two dozen other conservative leaders urged the Judiciary Committee to reject the bill, claiming VAWA would harm the family while maintaining programs that are ineffective. They acknowledged the “very real problem of violence against women and children,” but countered with VAWA “encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.” The letter also indicated the latest version of VAWA would add expensive programs, including one that would have the effect of re-educating “school children into domestic violence ideology.”

That’s nice. VAWA “encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.” Does it ever occur to these morons that the building blocks of a family – love, faith, trust, care, and respect – are decimated the moment domestic violence is perpetrated? The demise of the family does not come from interventions to assist the victims of domestic violence; it comes from the perpetration of domestic violence itself. A family where domestic violence is the norm is already demised.

But, when ending domestic violence means breaking up family – after all, the battered wife may have to get a divorce from her husband who might one day kill her – I suppose it’s nice to know that the conservative movement would rather see continued battery of the abused instead. After all, how dare you suggest women (or men) be able to escape from a “family” that gives them a black eye once every night?

It says something about conservative family values. When the social pressure to keep a dysfunctional unit nonetheless intact takes precedence over the protection of the abused, that is what a conservative family values society looks like. Good to know.

Nah, there’s no Republican war on women. Why do you ask?