Case 4: Hiding a Suspect

George Teller had been conducting research on an American Indian reservation for two years. During that time he developed strong, close relationships with many of the people who lived on the reservation. One morning while sitting at the breakfast table with the family he was staying with, the conversation became centered on an event that had occurred one week before. This is what was recounted.

Six men and five women were gathered in one of the men's homes having a party. As the night wore on and the effects of wine and beer drinking began to be felt by the people at the party, one of the men--Ted--went into a bedroom. He returned wearing a holster which contained an ivory-handled pistol. He began showing everyone his "quick draw" and, while doing so, one of the other men--Mike--began teasing him. Ted responded to this teasing by putting the pistol against Mike's forehead. The stories that went around the next day expressed confusion over how the gun happened to go off and whether or not Mike was shot right then, or whether or not Ted had the gun when Mike was shot. Anyway, after the shooting everyone left Mike's home except his girlfriend, who called the police. After taking Mike's body to the mortuary, the police arrested Ted. Ted was released the next morning after a hearing where the tribal judge charged him with involuntary manslaughter and placed him on two years' probation. Now, at breakfast, people talked of a rumor going about the reservation that the ex-husband of Mike's girlfriend--Joe--had arrived at the party angry and "feeling high." Joe got into an argument with Mike and his ex-wife and wound up shooting Mike with Ted's gun. The tribal police were questioning everyone about this possibility, particularly since Joe seemed to be the center of a lot of recent violent activities on the reservation.

Teller asked his hosts if they thought Joe had killed Mike: the answer was yes and that nobody had seen Joe for several days--"he's hiding out, as usual, now that the FBI is looking for him."

Later that same day, Joe showed up at the house and asked Teller to take him to a distant town so he could catch a bus "for California." Joe said he was going back to his job for a while to earn money, and that he would be coming back to the reservation in a couple of months. Teller looked at his hosts for help in deciding what to do. They looked away, leaving the decision up to him.

Teller's Dilemma: Should he or should he not take Joe to the bus station? In either case, if questioned by the Tribal Police, should he tell them he had seen Joe?

Teller's Decision

Teller refused to provide transportation for Joe on the grounds that he was already committed to doing some work for someone else at that moment. Later in the day, when the Tribal Police came to the home of Teller's hosts, following his hosts' lead, Teller also denied having seen Joe that day.