Long-time Prosecutor Jonnie Bray Leaves Colville Tribe for Southwest

Well it’s the end of an era.  Prosecutor Jonnie Bray of the Colville Confederated Tribes is calling it quits on May 28th, after about 15 years with the tribe.  She seemed like a permanent fixture in Nespelem, outlasting police chiefs,  judges, public defenders,  and council members.

Council table for the prosecution in Tribal Court.

Never the permanent lead prosecutor, Bray took less of a leadership roll, and more the roll of the “heavy-lifter”.  In what seemed like a thankless job, she took on the cases of legal complexity, the jurisdictional disputes, the tough sex crimes, and homicides.  Often working without a lead prosecutor, the work (from the outsider’s perspective) seemed pretty overwhelming, and I often wondered when things would “snap”.  But they never did.  Although my contacts with Tribal leadership were pretty limited, I never really got the impression that people fully appreciated just how much she held things together down there.   In a court system where people often bite their tongues, Bray was usually pretty outspoken with her observations.  In an interview with a reporter from The Wenatchee-World last year, Bray wasn’t shy about questioning why the FBI and federal prosecutor don’t assist more in prosecutions on Indian land.  (See story).  As with any rural area, the jury pool in Tribal Court is small and can be wary of law enforcement.    Bray had a knack for convictions, and out-of-town defense lawyers usually preferred to square off against the non-tribal, juris-doctorate types, who were usually selected as lead prosecutor or special prosecutor.

I asked Bray once about her short stint as a defense lawyer 15 years ago.  She said she realized that she wanted to be a prosecutor after working on defending her first child abuse case.  Jonnie Bray will be moving to the Southwest to go work for the Hopi Nation.   The Hopi are lucky to have her.

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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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