MUSKOGEE — A federal jury convicted a Muscogee Nation tribal member Thursday of a 1999 McIntosh County murder after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out his state conviction and death sentence in one of the first cases to successfully argue that the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to try the defendant because of his American Indian status.
The jury found Patrick Dwayne Murphy, 52, guilty of one count of second-degree murder, one count of murder in Indian Country in perpetuation of kidnapping and one count of kidnapping resulting in death following a three-day trial that began Tuesday.
The government did not seek the death penalty for Murphy.
Federal prosecutors retried Murphy after the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2020 overturned his conviction and death sentence after agreeing that the crime was committed on tribal land because Congress had never disestablished the tribal nation’s 11-county reservation, which includes McIntosh County and much of the city of Tulsa.
Murphy has been on death row since a McIntosh County jury convicted him in 2000 and recommended the death sentence in the kidnapping, murder and genital mutilation of George Jacobs Sr., 49.
Jacobs was Murphy’s girlfriend’s ex-husband.
His body was found in a ditch along a county road near Vernon, about 15 miles west of Eufaula, on Aug. 28, 1999. Testimony at the trial indicated that Jacobs was dragged from a vehicle by three men, who then kicked and punched him before he was attacked with a knife.
A passerby found Jacobs in the ditch with his face bloodied and slashes across his chest and stomach, according to the ruling.
Jacobs’ genitals had been severed and his throat slit. It was estimated that he bled to death in four to 12 minutes.
Murphy challenged his conviction on several fronts, including claims that the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction because he was American Indian and the crime occurred within the historic boundaries of the Muscogee Nation reservation.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in 2017 that the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to try Murphy because he was Native American and the death occurred within “Indian Country.”
The court noted that only Congress can diminish or disestablish a tribal reservation boundary and that it hadn’t done so with the Muscogee Nation since the 1860s.
The U.S. Supreme Court later affirmed that decision in 2020 along with issuing its now famously similar ruling involving the appeal of child sex abuser Jimcy McGirt.
Federal prosecutors were able to secure a conviction of Murphy despite the loss of some evidence and difficulty tracking down witnesses from more than 20 years ago.
They said in a trial brief that the state of Oklahoma had lost some evidence used in the state trial, including the murder weapon.
“I am thankful Patrick Murphy has been held accountable for the vicious killing of George Jacobs,” acting U.S. Attorney Christopher Wilson said in a statement later Thursday.
“Justice was interrupted for a period of time due to the jurisdictional challenges raised by the defendant, but justice was not thwarted.
“Through the excellent work of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office, the evidence was presented to the jury and the guilty verdicts were returned.
“I know it has been a tumultuous time for the family of Mr. Jacobs, but they can now rest assured the defendant will pay for his crimes,” he said.