10th Circuit rejects Native man's appeal

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the drunken-driving conviction of a Native man in New Mexico.

Gordon House, who is Navajo and Oneida, was convicted in state court for a Christmas Eve 1992 crash that killed a woman and her three young daughters. The case drew significant public attention at the time.

House exhausted his state court appeals and turned to the federal courts. He said he was discriminated against when his case was moved to another county, thereby denying Indian jury participation.

The first and second trials, which took place in a county with more Indians, resulted in mistrials. After the trial was moved to a county with fewer Indians, House was convicted

"The trial court and all the participants . . . were well aware that Taos County has a 6.5% Native American adult population while Doña Ana County has only about 0.8%," the 10th Circuit wrote, quoting a prior opinion in the case.

The court, however, said House did not prove his rights were violated. "Nonetheless, a disparity in the number of potential Native American jurors is not presumptively discriminatory," the decision stated. "Therefore, Mr. House has failed to rebut, by clear and convincing evidence, the presumptive correctness of the state court’s factual findings,"

House is serving a 22-year prison sentence.

Get the Story:
Gordon House case: Appeals court upholds DWI conviction (AP 5/7)

10th Circuit Decision:
House v. Hatch (May 6, 2008)