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Murder case revives debate over tribal sovereignty, death penalty

Federal prosecutors want the death penalty for Kirby Cleveland, a Navajo man accused of killing a tribal police officer last year.

The case could signal that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will take a more aggressive approach with the death penalty in Indian Country, though most tribes, including the Navajo Nation, are opposed to capital punishment. Regardless of how it plays out, Cleveland’s case is likely to revive a debate on race, sovereignty and just who can deliver justice on reservations across New Mexico — and the country.


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