First Non-Indian Jury Trial Conviction In Indian Country Prosecuted At Tucson, Arizona’s Pascua Yaqui Tribal Court

The first jury trial conviction of a non-Indian defendant under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) occurred on May 9 in the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona’s Tribal Court. Frank Jaimez was the first non-Indian defendant to be convicted by a jury in tribal court for a tribal charge of domestic violence.

This is the first non-Indian defendant jury trial conviction in a tribal court in 40 years due to recent federal law changes. The 19-year-old Jaimez was alleged to have committed an act of domestic violence against his wife, an enrolled Yaqui tribal member.

In September 2016, Jaimez was on probation for a previous VAWA conviction in which he pleaded guilty to strangling the same victim. Jaimez returned from visiting his family and became angry because the victim had the door open waiting for her daughter, and he demanded that she close it. During the course of an argument, Jaimez picked up the victim’s property and threw it on the floor. Pascua Yaqui Law Enforcement arrived to find the victim crying. Jaimez admitted to officers that he had broken the victim’s property. A jury made up of both tribal and non-tribal members found Jaimez guilty of domestic violence malicious mischief and remains in-custody awaiting sentencing set for June 7, 2017.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe issued a press release saying that the Tribe, “recognizes that its strength is family, and that the safety of victims of domestic violence must be ensured by immediate intervention. The protection of victim and defendant rights and due process are also of paramount importance of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s justice system. The Tribe’s justice system was recognized as a progressive court system when the United States government selected it as one of three pilot tribes to implement Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction in February 2014. Since then, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has conducted three jury trials with non-Indian defendants, extradited two non-Indian defendants back to its tribal court from the State on tribal court warrants, and convicted 14 non-Indian defendants.”

The Tribe called the prosecution a “monumental criminal proceeding” that is an accomplishment not only for the Pascua Yaqui people, but for all of Indian Country. It demonstrates tribal courts’ability to fairly administer justice and protect its families.”