Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been taking heat for his comments on Native American courts. He defended his vote against the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization by claiming that it would allow all-Native American juries to prosecute non-Native American men who violate women on reservations. All-Native juries wouldn't be fair to non-Natives, he explained.
Some research supports Grassley's idea that an all-Native jury would be biased. "Impartiality is called into question when defendants face juries that include few, if any, members of their race," a recent study claims.
However, Grassley is wrong that VAWA authorizes all-Native juries. The bill actually requires tribal courts to use representative juries: "The participating tribe shall provide to the defendant...an impartial jury that is drawn from sources that reflect a fair cross section of the community [and does] not systematically exclude any distinctive group in the community, including non-Indians." Since 46% of people living on reservations are non-Native, tribal juries should contain non-Native members.