US declines to try half Native crimes

By Felicia Fonseca and Sudhin Thanawala
Window Rock, Arizona (AP) June 2011

The Navajo mother said she had accidentally rolled over her 2-year-old daughter in bed, smothering her. Authorities concluded the toddler had been beaten.

That was three years ago and no charges have been filed.

Major crimes on Indian reservations are the responsibility of federal prosecutors. They end up declining to bring charges in half of the cases.

An Associated Press analysis of recent cases in the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation finds the reasons to be frustratingly similar: poor evidence, reluctant witnesses and jurisdictional issues.

Whatever the reasons, no one disputes that many people suspected of violent crimes are walking free on reservations, or are lightly punished under tribal laws.