Ninth Circuit Rules against Testimony Submitted on Historical Trauma to Show Navajo Defendant was Coerced into Confessing

Here is the unpublished opinion in United States v. Woody.

An excerpt:

The district court’s factual findings regarding “historical trauma” and the impact of Native American culture on the voluntariness of Woody’s statements were clearly erroneous. A “‘finding is clearly erroneous when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.’” Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985) (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). Here, the district court relied on expert testimony from Dr. David McIntyre, who opined that Native Americans are susceptible to coercion during questioning because of cultural differences and “historical trauma.” Yet during crossexamination, Dr. McIntyre acknowledged that his “very broad generalizations about Native Americans” could not be attributed to Woody specifically and conceded that Woody had not been diagnosed with historical trauma because “[t]here is no such diagnosis.” Because these characteristics could not be attributed to Woody individually, the district court erred in relying on them to support its finding that Woody’s will had been overborne.


Answer Brief

Opening Brief