Defendant Loses Appeal Based on Judge’s ‘Go Native’ Remark

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Corrected: A Native American has lost his bid for a new sentence because of the judge’s “go native” remark.

The South Dakota Supreme Court said the judge’s comment, used to describe the defendant’s pattern of behavior when drinking alcohol, was “ill chosen” but there was no bias. The June 22 decision (PDF) affirmed an 18-year sentence for the defendant, Ivan Good Plume.

Good Plume was convicted of aggravated assault based on allegations he hit his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend with a shovel. At sentencing, the judge noted “35 or 40 criminal entries in a five-year span” and said he assumed all were linked to drinking.

“I don’t doubt you are extremely bright,” the judge said. “I don’t doubt you have a great many good qualities. And unfortunately, when you drink—and this was not my term. It was used by a young Native American in extremely violent circumstances—and he said go native. Now I am not sure what it means but it smacked of huge violence. And that’s absolutely descriptive of the event that went down that night. Absolutely descriptive of the events that brought you here. And I attribute it to nothing more than your inability to control raging anger when you are under the influence of alcohol.”

The court said the transcript shows the judge’s remarks were based on facts and events rather than racial stereotypes or prejudice.

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.

Corrected at 2:29 p.m. to indicate that Good Plume was convicted in an attack on his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

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