CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Washington Chief Justice to Retry Indian Chief Hanged in 1858-UPDATED

Leschi Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe in Washington was hanged by state authorities in 1858 for killing a militia officer. The U.S. Army refused to do it because it believed it violated the law of war to execute a combatant for a battlefield killing. Last year, the state legislature called on the state Supreme Court to vacate the conviction, but the execution took place when Washington was a territory (and thus the conviction was technically federal), and, of course, there are standing problems with reopening a criminal case where the defendant is dead.  Accordingly the Chief Justice of Washington convened a Historical Court of Justice, which will render a symbolic verdict after trial next week by state prosecutors and lawyers for the tribe. Chief Leschi's historical reputation is already rehabilitated; streets, schools and neighborhoods in Washington bear his name.

UPDATE: Not Guilty. [Jack Chin]

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