A Welch man who admitted to killing his adoptive mother in 2011 was sentenced Friday to serve a 45-year federal prison term after a state court threw out his Craig County murder conviction and life without parole prison term and then reinstated it.
Michael Joe Rice, 58, pleaded guilty July 7 in Tulsa federal court to the second-degree murder of Ruth Rice, 81, after a grand jury had indicted him in April on first-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse charges in Indian Country.
The plea deal, which required judicial approval, called for Rice to serve a 45-year prison term. He could have faced up to life in federal prison. But because of jurisdictional issues that played out in the courts, Rice will be returned to state prison to serve out his life without parole sentence.
“Michael Rice brutally assaulted his mother and left her for dead,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “His actions were heinous and inexcusable. I am thankful for the state and federal investigators and prosecutors who have worked diligently since 2011 to hold this killer accountable for his crimes.”
For the past nine years, Rice has been serving a life without parole sentence in state custody after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in Craig County District Court.
Rice challenged his conviction and sentence earlier this year on grounds that he could not be tried by a state court due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision in 2020.
The McGirt ruling determined that the state of Oklahoma has no jurisdiction to charge someone with a major crime when the crime involves an American Indian and it occurred within the 1860s-era reservation boundaries of the Muscogee Nation.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has since expanded the McGirt ruling beyond the Muscogee Nation reservation to include five other tribal nation reservations, including that of the Cherokee Nation.
Rice is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and the killing occurred within the Cherokee reservation.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in March initially threw out Rice’s conviction and judgment, citing McGirt.
The court overruled itself in September and reinstated Rice’s conviction and no-parole sentence after determining that the McGirt ruling did not apply to cases after the inmate’s direct appeal had been exhausted.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa said in a news release that Rice will be returned to Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ custody, where he will serve out his state prison sentence.
McGirt v. Oklahoma: Supreme Court decision and aftermath
Jan. 11, 2022: Supreme Court: McGirt not retroactive; Oklahoma's appeals still on the table
Jan. 9, 2022: Most released due to McGirt have been charged either federally or tribally, Tulsa World analysis finds
Jan. 16, 2022: Bizarre dog killing exposes limits to cross-deputization agreements in wake of McGirt ruling
Dec. 14: Tribal leaders sound off as Stitt seeks change to hunting, fishing license compacts
Dec. 13: Supreme Court sets date with Oklahoma to respond to 40-plus McGirt appeals
Cherokee Nation disputes state's claim McGirt ruling has caused 'chaos'
Oct. 28: Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission asks city to withdraw brief on McGirt
Oct. 21, 2021: State appellate court extends McGirt ruling to include Quapaw Nation
Sept. 18, 2021: Oklahoma AG asks Supreme Court again to reverse or limit McGirt
Aug. 27, 2021: Gov. Kevin Stitt says McGirt legal decision is state's 'most pressing issue'
Aug. 26, 2021: Man at center of McGirt landmark legal case sentenced to 3 life sentences
Aug. 6, 2021: State asks U.S. Supreme Court to overturn landmark McGirt decision
Aug. 1, 2021: U.S. House rejects $154 million for tribal judicial systems
July 19, 2021: Gov. Stitt sues federal government
July 19, 2021: Osage Nation seeks court affirmation that its reservation also was never disestablished
July 13, 2021: Contentious McGirt forum ends early after shout-down from audience
July 9, 2021: Cherokee Nation highlights expansion of legal system on anniversary of ruling
July 8, 2021: 'McGirt v. Oklahoma Community Impact Forum' set for July 13; tribal leaders irked
June 10, 2021: '80s serial rapist's claim he is 'Indian' for criminal jurisdictional purposes rejected
May 26, 2021: U.S. Supreme Court signals they could limit ruling
May 19, 2021: State-Tribal Litigation Fund bill passes
May 17, 2021: How Cherokee Tribal courts are handling the surge in cases
May 11, 2021: Oklahoma congressman's bill would allow tribes to compact with state on criminal jurisdiction
May 10, 2021: Cherokee, Chickasaw tribal chiefs announce support for federal legislation
April 29, 2021: State appeals court overturns two more death sentences
April 28, 2021: AG seeks to intervene in case of power plant objecting to property taxes
April 15, 2021: Appellate court rejects claims of two who failed to prove ancestry
April 14, 2021: Chickasaws question Gov. Stitt's rhetoric about McGirt impact
April 9, 2021: Four serving life sentences in state prison to get new trials
April 8, 2021: Death-row inmate's state conviction, sentence are in jeopardy
April 8, 2021: State appellate court dismisses five more cases on jurisdictional grounds
April 6, 2021: Cherokee AG says some cases dismissed by ruling could go unretried
April 1, 2021: State appellate court expands McGirt ruling
March 31, 2021: 'Fracture' in criminal system created by decision, Tulsa County DA says
March 18, 2021: Manslaughter conviction for ex-Tulsa Police officer overturned
March 14, 2021: Broken Arrow power plant claims county has no authority to levy property taxes
March 11, 2021: Court ruling means hundreds of state criminal cases will be shifted to tribal or federal courts
March 11, 2021: Cherokees expanding criminal justice system for larger role
March 7, 2021: Former principal chief isn't happy as McGirt decision hits home
March 4, 2021: Rogers County judge dismisses over 100 criminal cases
Feb. 1, 2021: Gov. Stitt takes on McGirt ruling during State of the State address
Jan. 28, 2021: McGirt decision impact on state oil and gas industry examined during OEPA briefing
Jan. 23, 2021: Oklahoma governor urges tribes to begin negotiating issues
Jan. 15, 2021: Tribes want Congress to allow criminal justice compacts with Oklahoma
Jan. 8, 2021: Former Tulsa police officer's double-jeopardy, statute-of-limitations claims denied
Jan. 4, 2021: McGirt decision results in record number of criminal federal filings in 2020
Nov. 7, 2020: Federal jury finds McGirt guilty in retrial
Oct. 23, 2020: Gov. Stitt panel releases principles for state-tribe relations
Oct. 5, 2020: McGirt ruling could have impact on state tax collections
Oct. 1, 2020: Attorney General Bill Barr meets with Cherokee Nation leadership, local federal prosecutors
Aug. 29, 2020: Man charged in 1990s rapes freed due to McGirt ruling
Aug. 14, 2020: McGirt makes federal court appearance in child sex abuse case
Aug. 7, 2020: McGirt-related murder cases increase Tulsa federal court's caseload
Aug. 1, 2020: Feds file charges against two men whose state convictions were overturned
July 29, 2020: Attorneys general for Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation discuss ruling on 'Let's Talk'
July 21, 2020: Gov. Stitt forms commission to study impact of decision on state
July 20, 2020: Oklahoma AG tracking scores of appeals that could be affected by decision
July 17, 2020: Attorney general, tribes reach agreement on jurisdictional issues
July 15, 2020: Ruling could affect case of mother charged with killing children
July 14, 2020: Homicide in Tulsa 'first real test' of decision
July 12, 2020: Decision to have little impact on nontribal residents, TU law professor says
July 10, 2020: Tribal law expert calls ruling 'most important' in state history
July 9, 2020: U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision
December 2019: U.S. Supreme Court to hear McGirt v. Oklahoma
McGirt v. Oklahoma: Supreme Court decision and aftermath
Check out our latest digital-only offer and subscribe now