New Oklahoma AG calls on SCOTUS to reverse major tribal decision
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma’s new attorney general on Friday asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn its own landmark ruling on tribal sovereignty, saying the High Court’s 5-4 decision last year was badly decided and led to a “criminal justice crisis”.
Attorney General John O’Connor filed the petition with the high court a day after a death row inmate from Oklahoma whose challenge led to the decision, later nicknamed McGirt, was again convicted in federal court of murder and kidnapping.
O’Connor argues the ruling has led thousands of state prisoners to question decades of convictions, many of whom can no longer be prosecuted.
“McGirt’s decision is now pushing thousands of victims of crime to seek justice from federal and tribal prosecutors whose offices are not equipped to respond to these demands,” the petition says. “Many crimes go uninvestigated and prosecuted, endangering public safety. ”
The petition also calls on the Supreme Court to consider restricting the application of its ruling by allowing violent felons convicted before the ruling to remain in state prisons. He is also asking the court to grant the state the power to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against tribal citizens on reserve lands.
Lawyers for some tribes have argued that the state’s dire warnings are overblown and that federal and tribal courts are working to manage the extra workload.
Chief Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. accused O’Connor and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, himself a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to advance an “anti-Indian political agenda”.
“The governor has never attempted to cooperate with the tribes to protect all Oklahomans,” Hoskin said in a statement. “It is perfectly clear that he always intended to destroy the Oklahoma reservations and the sovereignty of the Oklahoma tribes, at whatever cost.”
Stitt, who began to clash with the tribes over casino games shortly after taking office in 2019, appointed O’Connor as Attorney General following the resignation of former Attorney General Mike Hunter suddenly in May. Hunter was also a fierce critic of the McGirt decision.
O’Connor’s petition filed in case of another death row inmate, Shaun Bosse, whose conviction in the murder of his girlfriend and two children was dismissed by a state appeals court. Bosse is not a tribal citizen, but his victims were, and the murders took place on the Chickasaw Nation reservation. Bosse is awaiting a new trial in federal court, and in May, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to keep Bosse on death row while she considered reviewing criminal jurisdiction issues.
In another case Thursday, a federal jury in Muskogee found another death row inmate, Patrick Murphy, 52, guilty of the 1999 murder of George Jacobs in McIntosh County, eastern Oklahoma. Murphy faces life in prison when officially convicted, but will avoid the death penalty.
A citizen of the Muscogee Nation, Murphy’s was the original case in which federal public defenders initially argued that the state had no jurisdiction to prosecute him since he was a tribal citizen and the murder had occurred in the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation reserve.
A phone message left with Murphy’s attorneys on Friday was not immediately returned.
Murphy’s case ended up being named for another criminal accused, Jimcy McGirt, in a case involving similar jurisdictional issues. McGirt was also retried and sentenced in federal court.
The Muscogee Nation reserve encompasses 3 million acres (12,100 square kilometers), including most of the city of Tulsa. Based on the High Court ruling, the ruling has since been expanded to include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nation Reserves, which essentially cover the entire eastern half of the state. It has resulted in the overturning of hundreds of criminal convictions, including several death penalty cases, and these cases being reclassified in federal or tribal courts.