United States v. Antelope - 430 U.S. 641 (1977)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641 (1977)
United States v. Antelope
Argued January 18, 1977
Decided April 19, 1977
430 U.S. 641
Respondents, enrolled Coeur d'Alene Indians, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of burglary, robbery, and murder of a non-Indian within the boundaries of their reservation. One respondent was convicted of second-degree murder only; the other two were convicted of all three crimes as charged, including first-degree murder under the felony murder provisions of the federal enclave murder statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1111, as made applicable to Indians by the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that respondents had been denied their constitutional rights under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The court agreed with respondents' contention that their felony murder convictions were racially discriminatory, since a non-Indian charged with the same crime would have been subject to prosecution only under Idaho law, under which premeditation and deliberation would have had to be proved, whereas no such elements were required under the felony murder provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1111.
Held: Respondent Indians were not deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Pp. 430 U. S. 645-650.
(a) The federal criminal statutes enforced here are based neither in whole nor in part upon impermissible racial classifications. Federal regulation of Indian tribes is rooted in the unique status of Indians as "a separate people" with their own political institutions, and is not to be viewed as legislation of a "racial' group consisting of
Indians.' . . ." Morton v. Mancari, 417 U. S. 535, 417 U. S. 553 n. 24. Pp. 430 U. S. 645-647.
(b) The challenged statutes do not otherwise violate equal protection. Respondents were subjected to the same body of law as any other individuals, Indian or non-Indian, charged with first-degree murder committed in a federal enclave. Congress has undoubted power to prescribe a criminal code applicable to Indian country, and the disparity between federal law and Idaho law has no equal protection or other constitutional significance. Pp. 430 U. S. 647-650.
523 F.2d 400, reversed and remanded.
BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.