The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued another round of opinions Thursday that overturned inmates’ convictions based on tribal jurisdiction claims, including those of five men convicted of murder.
The appellate court overturned eight convictions and stopped a pending prosecution based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt ruling and related state court opinions.
Those rulings determined that the state government did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the accused because either the defendant or the victim was American Indian and the crime occurred within one of five tribes’ historical reservation boundaries.
Among those to see their case overturned Thursday are:
Benjamin Robert Cole Sr., 56, on death row for the 2002 Rogers County death of his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna Cole.
James Chandler Ryder, 59, on death row for the 1999 double murder of a Pittsburg County couple.
Dakota Shay Fox, 25, serving life without parole for the 2018 fatal shooting of Jarrin Boyles in McCurtain County.
David Deval Martin, 36, serving life without parole for the 2013 McIntosh County beating death of Jennifer Kitchens.
Shawn Lee McDaniel, 60, serving a life sentence for the 2014 fatal shooting of Billy Fools in Muskogee County.
The Court of Criminal Appeals also upheld a Seminole County District Court ruling that the state did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute its first-degree murder case against Corker Dean Barker, 34.
Barker is accused of murder in connection with the death of Michael Kelough, whose body was discovered April 2, 2019, in his car in rural Seminole County. Barker is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and the crime occurred within its reservation boundaries.
Cole, meanwhile, is already under indictment by a Tulsa federal grand jury. The federal charge was filed in anticipation that his state conviction and death sentence would be overturned.
Cole has been on death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester since 2004 after a Rogers County jury convicted him of first-degree murder. His trial included evidence that Cole broke Brianna’s back and ruptured her aorta on Dec. 20, 2002, after her crying interrupted a video game he was playing, according to trial testimony.
Ryder was convicted in the shooting deaths of Daisy and Sam Hallum, both citizens of the Choctaw Nation. He received the death penalty for the woman’s murder and life without parole for the man’s murder.
Just before the killings, Ryder had returned to Oklahoma from Georgia after failing to recruit family members to go with him to the Canadian Yukon to “escape the end of the world.” Property he intended to take to the Yukon was stored with the Hallums.
When he tried to retrieve his property with the help of local county deputies, he was given only two small boxes, according to court records.
The court also ordered that the judgment and sentence for Dakota James Alleyn Shriver, 27, be overturned.
Shriver was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Noelle New, who was struck by a vehicle in which Shriver was a passenger. Shriver was fighting with his brother, who was driving the vehicle before it ran off a Rogers County road on June 5, 2015, striking and killing New, who had been walking.
The court also overturned the sentence and judgment for Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta, 36, whom a Tulsa County jury convicted of child neglect in 2017. The jury found him guilty of abusing his wife’s daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy and weighed just 19 pounds when she was 5 years old.
Prosecutors theorized that he and his wife, Christina Calhoun, singled out the child for mistreatment because of her disability. Calhoun, who received a life sentence for her role in the matter, is also seeking post-conviction relief.
The appellate court also overturned the convictions and 40-year prison term for Sonny Raye McCombs, 30.
McCombs was convicted of robbery, shooting a firearm from a vehicle and carrying a firearm after being convicted of a felony for his part in a 2016 Tulsa County violent carjacking and related police chase.
As with previous McGirt-related decisions, the appellate court gave itself 20 days before making the decisions final in order to give federal and tribal officials time to file charges if they choose.