A man who has spent more than half his life behind bars for murder now faces federal charges in the same 1999 fatal shooting after he challenged the state’s jurisdiction.
Courtney Cordell Crenshaw, 38, was named in a first-degree murder charge filed Tuesday in Tulsa federal court.
The charge alleges that Crenshaw shot Artie Burton IV on April 7, 1999, during a dispute over the sale of a car.
A Tulsa County District Court jury convicted Crenshaw in April 2000 of first-degree murder. A judge later imposed the jury’s recommendation of life in prison, a term he is currently serving.
Crenshaw challenged his state conviction and life sentence on Oct. 27, claiming in a court filing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling in 2020, which determined that the Muscogee Nation reservation had never been disestablished by Congress, applied to his case, too.
Much of the city of Tulsa and surrounding counties are within the tribe’s 1860s-era reservation and therefore outside the state’s jurisdiction on criminal matters.
Attorneys for Crenshaw and the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office agreed in a June 10 filing that Crenshaw was a member of the Muscogee Nation prior to the killing and that the offense occurred within the tribe’s reservation boundaries, major factors in determining whether a case qualifies under McGirt.
An affidavit filed in support of the complaint and Crenshaw’s arrest claims that the then-16-year-old initially claimed that he knew nothing about the shooting in the 7900 block of East 59th Place and invoked his right to remain silent.
Crenshaw’s mother, who was with him while he was questioned by police, then talked to her son after being permitted to listen to Burton’s post-shooting 911 call, according to the affidavit.
During the call to 911, Burton identified his shooter as someone with the last name Crenshaw before the line went dead.
Responding police found a broken front-door jam, debris in a hallway and Burton lying in a fetal position on a bedroom floor near a blood-covered telephone.
Burton had purchased a 1984 Buick Regal for $300 from Crenshaw several weeks earlier but had been asking for his money back because the vehicle was not running properly, according to the affidavit. Crenshaw told him he had already spent it, the affidavit says.
Crenshaw told police he went to Burton’s house to discuss the vehicle. He told police Burton was pointing a pistol at him when he found him in a bedroom closet.
Crenshaw said that when he asked Burton why he was holding the gun on him, Burton said, “You know why.”
That’s when, according to Crenshaw, he pulled his pistol and shot Burton, fearing Burton would shoot him first.