The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday overturned five more state convictions, including two with life sentences, on jurisdictional grounds linked to the 2020 Supreme Court McGirt decision.
Among the cases overturned was that of Jeffery Arch Jones, a Broken Arrow man who is serving a 175-year prison term after a Tulsa County jury convicted him in 2017 of five child sex abuse counts.
Jones, 31, is a Cherokee Nation member, and the alleged abuse occurred within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, according to court records.
Jones’ case is among hundreds that have been filed in federal and tribal courts after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in July that the state of Oklahoma didn’t have jurisdiction to try criminal cases that occurred within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation and involved Native Americans.
The Supreme Court found that the reservation still existed because Congress has never disestablished it since a 1860s-era treaty.
The state Court of Criminal Appeals has since expanded the ruling to include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole reservations.
The appellate court also overturned the convictions of four others due to McGirt:
Charles Michael Cooper, 31, serving a life without parole sentence for the 2016 Pontotoc County murder of Cindy Allen. Cooper is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Allen was killed within the Chickasaw reservation. Cooper was also ordered in state court to serve sentences ranging from 15 years to 35 years in prison after he was convicted of two counts of first-degree arson, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of rape by instrumentation.
Cooper allegedly told police at the time he initially went to Allen’s home to burglarize it after a night of heavy drinking. Sometime during the burglary, Cooper choked Allen to death after she woke up and screamed at him.
Joses Ric-E Beck, 33, serving life plus 100 years in prison in connection with a Johnston County assault of another man in 2017. Beck is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and the alleged crime occurred within the Chickasaw reservation.
“Under the analysis in McGirt, we hold the District Court of Johnston County did not have jurisdiction to prosecute Beck,” the appellate court said it is unpublished opinion.
Bea Ann Epperson, 48, who received two concurrent suspended five-year prison sentences after being found guilty in 2016 in McIntosh County of two counts of embezzlement of building trust. Epperson is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and the alleged crime occurred within the Muscogee (Creek) reservation.
Travis Dray Stewart, 41, serving a 30-year prison term after pleading guilty in Tulsa County District Court to sexual abuse of a child during 2004 or 2005. Stewart is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and the alleged crime occurred within the tribe’s reservation.
In keeping with past McGirt decisions, the court gave itself 20 days before making its rulings official to give federal or tribal authorities time to file equivalent charges in their respective courts.
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