Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 3.59 (C)

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(C)  Particular Cultures.  The literature on the relationship between different cultures and the court system in general,[182] and the criminal process in particular,[183] has been growing: 


                (1)  American Indian Culture.  For example, Chapter 9 of Cultural Issues in Criminal Defense, entitled “American Indian Culture and Federal Crimes,” by Michael D. Gordon and Jon M. Sands, discusses one particular class of cultures, those of American Indians, and how cultural differences between native Americans and the dominant society affect the litigation of a federal criminal case.  The authors discuss U.S. court jurisdiction over offenses committed in Indian country, double jeopardy issues, and sentencing issues, including cultural syndromes and physiological differences.


                (2)  Chinese Culture.  Potter, Law and Legal Culture in China, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 55 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999).


                (3)  Hmong Culture.  Ly, The Conflict between Law and Culture: The Case of the Hmong in America, 2001 WIS. LAW REV. 471 (2001) (tension between Hmong cultural practices and the American courts, including marriage by capture, medicinal use of opium, and ritual sacrifice of animals); Sheybani, Cultural Defense: One Person’s Culture is Another’s Crime, 9 LOYOLA L.A. INT’L & COMP. L.J.75l (1987) (discusses mens rea for different types of homicides in the context of the Kimura (“oyako-shinju” “parent-child suicide” case) and the Moua (Hmong marriage by capture case); traditional and modern views of cultural defenses); Dang Vang v. Vang Xiong X. Toyed, 944 F.2d 476, 481-82 (9th Cir. 1991) (approving admissibility of testimony of cultural expert on gender roles among Hmong people of Southeast Asia); United States v. Vue, 865 F. Supp. 1353 (D. Neb. 1994) (background as Hmong war refugees with no formal education, illiterate, unable to speak English, and attempts to lead a decent life in the face of adversity justified downward departure).


                (4)  Mexican Culture.  Palerm, Mexican Immigrants in Courts, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 73 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999).


                (5)  Muslim Culture.  Bassiouni, The Shari’a: Islamic Law: What Muslims in the United States Have in Common, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 98 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999); Hamed & Moore, Middle Easterners in American Courts, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 112 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999); Brelvi, ‘News of the Weird’: Specious Normativity and the Problem of the Cultural Defense, 28 COLUMBIA HUM. B. L. REV. 657 (1997) (discusses the Krasniqi case, in which an Albanian Muslim was unsuccessfully prosecuted but his children were taken away from him and his wife and given to a Christian family to adopt, when he was seen touching his daughter at a sporting event in a manner accepted in Albania but considered molestation here).


                (6)  Russian Culture.  Korkeakivi & Zolotukhina, The Russian Federation, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 117 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999).


                (7)  Vietnamese Culture.  Ta, Vietnamese Immigrants in American Courts, in J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts 140 (Univ. of Washington Press 1999).

[182] See generally J. Moore, editor, Immigrants In Courts (U. Wash. Press 1999); Brauer, Speaking of Culture: Immigrants in the American Legal System, in Immigrants in Courts  8 (J. Moore, ed., Univ. of Washington Press 1999).

[183] J. Connell & R. Valladares, eds., Cultural Issues In Criminal Defense (Juris Publishing 2000); Richard W. Cole & Laura Maslow-Armand, The Role of Counsel and the Courts in Addressing Foreign Language and Cultural Barriers at Different Stages of a Criminal Proceeding, 19 W. NEW ENG. L. REV. 193 (1997); Margolin, Working With Clients from a Different Culture, in J. Connell & R. Valladares, eds., Cultural Issues In Criminal Defense  1-1 (Juris Publishing 2000); Rupp, Special Considerations in Representing the Non-Citizen Defendant, in Defending A Federal Criminal Case 813 (Federal Defenders Of San Diego, Inc., 1998).



Lower Courts of Ninth Circuit

United States v. Zeng, __ F.Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 902380 (N.D.Cal. Mar, 22 2007) (granting motion to withdraw guilty plea where Rule 11 violation occurred because defendant was prevented, through cultural mores, from interrupting his attorney during the guilty plea phase, and defendant did not understand the nature of the charges against him, or the immigration consequences thereof, until he was later able to read a Chinese translation of the plea agreement).


A. Renteln, Raising Cultural Defenses, in L. FRIEDMAN RAMIREZ, ED., CULTURAL ISSUES IN CRIMINAL DEFENSE 423 (2d ed. 2007).
Alison Dundes Renteln & Marie-Claire Foblets, eds., Multicultural Jurisprudence: Comparative Perspectives on the Cultural Defense (2009).