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U.S. Supreme Court to hear Seminole tribal member's challenge to state jurisdiction in Indian Country

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Seminole tribal member's challenge to state jurisdiction in Indian Country

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U.S. Supreme Court justices will review another case involving state prosecution of an Oklahoma tribal member after previous efforts deadlocked in a death penalty case.

Jimcy McGirt, 71, is challenging an Oklahoma state court’s jurisdiction over him in his convictions in 1997 for a series of sex crimes. A Wagoner County District Court judge sentenced him that year to more than a millennia in prison.

McGirt was convicted of first-degree rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy, all after a former conviction, according to court documents. He previously served a five-year prison term for a sodomy conviction.

“McGirt challenges this judgment and sentence as void without subject matter jurisdiction because McGirt is an enrolled member of the federally recognized Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and the alleged crimes were allegedly committed in Indian Country,” McGirt wrote in his self-filed petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The crimes occurred in late 1996 in east Broken Arrow. And, according to the Oklahoma attorney general’s response to the petition, they were committed against a child.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously deadlocked on the case involving Patrick Dwayne Murphy, 50, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen who similarly challenged Oklahoma’s jurisdiction in his case.

Murphy and McGirt both argue that federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over crimes involving tribal members. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office argued in its response that McGirt’s petition should be denied pending the outcome of Murphy’s case.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch recused himself from Murphy’s case, reportedly due to a conflict of interest stemming from a lower court on which Gorsuch had served. Ostensibly, McGirt’s case can be reviewed by the whole nine-justice court.

Murphy’s case is expected to be reargued before the Supreme Court. Neither case has had a date scheduled for argument.

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Harrison Grimwood






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