Letter: State must maintain rule of law in all instances, including rural

December 11, 2013 

The Daily News wrote that the authors of the federal report recommending local sovereignty in rural criminal justice did not want “to see their work sitting on a shelf with others like it, gathering dust.” I couldn’t agree with them more. It should go straight through a shredder.

Anyone who has been in Alaska awhile will remember the 1994 tribal justice fiasco in Southeast. Briefly, two young men from Klawock, then living in Washington State, almost beat a pizza delivery man to death. A credulous Washington State judge was persuaded to allow them, rather than doing time, to be sent to Alaska for punishment by their tribe.

I cannot do justice in this letter to the farce that followed, but suffice it to say that the perpetrators, after supposedly being put through a public “shaming” and “banishment,” simply disappeared. That process was later disavowed as totally illegitimate by Native leaders.

Rural justice issues are grave and serious, but I don’t think we want to open the door to similar shenanigans. The state must retain its sole sovereignty.

— Herb Berkowitz



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