Most American Indian tribes opt out of federal death penalty

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - American Indian tribes for decades have been able to opt into the death penalty for certain federal crimes on tribal land. Nearly all reject it.

Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.

For those on the Navajo Nation, the sexual assault and murder of an 11-year-old girl near Shiprock, New Mexico, has reignited the issue. Ashlynne Mike's mother has been urging the tribe to opt in to the death penalty, particularly for crimes that involve children.

But the Southwestern tribe has long objected to putting people to death. The culture teaches that all life is precious.

One federally recognized tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, has opted in.

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