Carmen (petitioner), a Native American, was incarcerated at the California State Penitentiary at San Quentin after being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Thereafter, Carmen filed a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court claiming that the state court lacked jurisdiction to try and convict him of the offense. Instead, Carmen argued that federal statute required his case to have been tried in federal district court. The statute relied upon by Carmen was known as the Ten Major Crimes Act (the Act) as incorporated in Sections 1151, 1153, and 3242 of Title 18 of the United States Code. The Act provided that a Native American who committed any of the 10 enumerated crimes within the statute must be tried in federal court. Murder was one of the specific crimes listed.