Couple Once Again Face Charges Of Disturbing Archaeological Site
The Washington state Court of Appeals has reinstated charges against an Oregon couple accused of looting an Indian burial ground on the Columbia River.
In a decision issued Tuesday, the court’s Spokane division overruled a Benton County, Wash., judge who had dismissed felony charges against John Joseph Horner and Leona Lightle in January 1996.
They were charged with disturbing an archaeological site after authorities discovered a cache of at least 30,000 artifacts inside their Irrigon, Ore., home in 1995. The pieces included arrowheads, spearheads and stone tools.
Investigators are uncertain how many of the artifacts found in the home came from the burial site on Plymouth Island in the Columbia River.
In dismissing the charges, Superior Court Judge Duane Taber had said the state law in question is “unconstitutionally vague.”
Taber ruled the law doesn’t allow “ordinary people” to understand when they are breaking it. Moreover, the site where Horner and Lightle allegedly were seen digging wasn’t posted as an Indian burial ground, nor was spading the land explicitly prohibited.
But the appellate court found the law is not vague and remanded the case for trial.
The three-judge panel said the statute’s language “is sufficient to put ordinary citizens on notice that such conduct is prohibited.”
In addition, the types of artifacts the couple were accused of looting specifically are mentioned in the statute, the appellate court said.