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No justice after accident

Oct. 25 will mark the third anniversary of the saddest day in my family's life. On that day in 1994 I learned that my son Jered was killed on his way home from school. Adding to the pain and compounding the tragedy of his death, after three years my family still has not received our day in court because archaic federal law has granted the person responsible for my son's death sovereign immunity. Jered's killer will never have to appear in a state or federal court because the offender lives and works on an Indian reservation. If I want justice for my son I have to place my confidence in the Yakima tribal legal structure, which does not even have a constitution, let alone a tradition of civil litigation.

Jered's death was the result of one of the most frustrating words in the English language, an accident. Driving the family's farm pickup truck across an Indian reservation, Jered and his brother were struck by a tribal police vehicle. The tribal officer was on a high-speed response and is estimated to have been traveling at 68 mph when he rammed Jered at the intersection.Jered was only 18 years old. He was killed instantly just minutes away from home, a parent's nightmare. His brother, Andy, was in the same accident and thankfully survived, though he suffered a host of serious injuries that affect him even now, and he lives with the family grief that he will never see Jered again.

Losing a son to a tragic accident, something that could have been avoided but that can never be undone, I learned how frustrating an accident can be. But there is also the frustration of injustice, which is not an accident, but the will of citizens and legislatures. No words or deeds can bring my son back to life, but I want the right any other father would have if his son were to be killed by a reckless police officer in any town or city in America: the right to seek justice in a neutral court and receive redress from the responsible party. I believe every American is fully entitled to due process. Native Americans have access to federal courts when they are the victims of malfeasance on the part of non-Indians, but not the other way around. Why should I be denied the rights Indians have?

Bernard Gamache

Wapato, Wash.