Differences Between Tribal and Federal Court System Evident From First Hearing on Kevin Pakootas

The September 23rd the Omak-Chronicle ran a story covering the first court hearing in U.S.A. v. Kevin I. Pakootas in Federal court in Spokane.   Kevin Pakootas is charged with Second Degree Murder for allegedly killing his wife in Inchelium, within the Colville Indian Reservation.  He is also charged with Attempted Murder of a second individual.  The Omak-Chronicle explained that the Federal court “… refused a furlough request by Pakootas to attend the funeral [of his wife]”.

I am not sure what the readers of this article made of this request.  I checked the records in the federal court house online, and a furlough request was in fact  made on 9-15-09.

I have noticed that furlough requests for funerals are often made and are often granted in Tribal Court, whereas such requests in State court are far less common.    I once represented an individual charged with attempted homicide in Tribal Court, and the defendant directed me to try to get a furlough for his uncle’s rosary.   The court granted the furlough on the condition that I personally drive the defendant to the funeral and back.  I picked my client up in Nespelem at the Tribal jail and drove him to the rosary in Inchelium and back in one evening.  My client was grateful.  My client was later acquitted of all charges.  When I tell this story to attorneys who do not practice in Tribal Court, they are often surprised.   In someways, Tribal Court is much tougher on conditions of release pending trial.  It is more common for defendants to be held without bail in Tribal Court.  In State Court, Article I, Section 20 of the Constitution prevents judges from holding clients without bail on all cases except capital offenses.

Despite the different traditions in Tribal Court versus Federal Court, I do kind of wonder about a request for a defendant to attend the funeral of an alleged victim.  I would imagine that would be denied pretty much universally.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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