Any beef the state of Oklahoma has with the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling should be handled through Congress rather than the court system, the Five Tribes assert in a friend-of-the-court brief.
The Supreme Court brief, filed Monday by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole nations, urged the court to dismiss claims by the state that it was undergoing a “criminal-justice crisis” since the court released its McGirt decision in July 2020.
“Instead of supporting funding requests, engaging with Congress, or negotiating with the Nations, the Governor and his counsel tout litigation to circumvent and undermine McGirt as the State’s primary effort,” the tribes claim in their brief.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the last of the state of Oklahoma’s challenges to the court’s McGirt decision: whether it has authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in Indian Country.
The U.S. Supreme Court in March turned away the state’s request that it overturn its McGirt ruling entirely, instead focusing on the jurisdictional issue.
The landmark decision recognized that the Muscogee Nation reservation, which includes much of Tulsa, had never been disestablished by Congress.
The ruling meant that since statehood, the state of Oklahoma has not had jurisdiction to try a case that involved a member of a federally recognized tribe and a crime within the Muscogee Nation reservation. Jurisdiction in those cases rests with the federal government or tribal government, depending on the facts of the case.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, in a series of decisions, has since ruled that five other eastern Oklahoma tribes’ reservations with similar treaties with the U.S. government also were never disestablished.
As a result, much of the eastern half of Oklahoma has been acknowledged to be “Indian Country” when it comes to criminal jurisdiction, leaving the state out of the jurisdictional loop when a case involves an American Indian.
The acknowledged tribal reservations are those of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Quapaw and Seminole nations.
The state of Oklahoma is appealing an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision in the case of Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta and several others where the victim was Indian and the defendant was a non-Indian.
The state of Oklahoma claims it still has the authority to prosecute Castro-Huerta, while the tribes and others disagree.
The tribes’ brief was one of five filed in recent days in opposition to the state of Oklahoma’s claim that it has the authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in Indian Country.
Others challenging the state’s claim include a group of former U.S. attorneys, including Trent Shores, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The U.S. attorneys didn’t mince words in the opening sentence of their brief filed Monday.
“It is black-letter law that the states have no jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians or against Indians in Indian Country,” the former federal prosecutors state in their brief, authored by Shores and former U.S. attorneys from Montana, Tennessee, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, South Dakota and North Dakota.
“Oklahoma attempts to create the misimpression that state jurisdiction is the normal jurisdictional default role even when crimes arise in Indian country, and that the holding of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was an aberration,” the prosecutors continued.
Shores was U.S. attorney in the Tulsa office for about 3½ years until 2021, when the political appointee left to enter private practice. Shores, a member of the Choctaw Nation, is also chief justice for the Kaw Nation.
Meanwhile, the Five Tribes claim the state of Oklahoma’s assertion that it has authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against tribal members in Indian Country threatens the Nations’ exercise of tribal self-government to improve public safety and well-being on their reservations and resurrects the threat of state encroachment on tribal sovereignty.
“Contrary to the State’s and its amici’s (friend of the court) claims, the federal government is prosecuting both violent and non-violent crimes, as shown by U.S. Attorney’s announcements for grand jury indictments,” the tribes state.
The tribes are also increasing their law enforcement resources and capabilities. The Cherokee Nation spent $10 million last fiscal year to expand its justice system, according to the tribes.
The Choctaw Nation says it has spent over $24.8 million “in response to the affirmation of its reservation,” according to the tribes.
The Muscogee Nation claims it has more than doubled its Lighthorse police budget from 2020 to 2022.
The Seminole Nation has increased its court funding by more than 117% since the McGirt ruling.
The Chickasaw Nation, meanwhile, has more than 30 new personnel in its Lighthorse Police Department, more than doubled its prosecutorial staff, and hired a new criminal investigator and a new supervisory probation officer.
The tribes are also increasing their physical infrastructure, with the Muscogee Nation planning three new police substations and a new 23,000-square-foot courthouse, according to court records.
The tribes together have filed nearly 13,000 criminal cases in their respective courts, according to the brief.
The state’s tale of a criminal dystopia in eastern Oklahoma is just that — a tale, according to the tribes.
“The State’s slanted telling provides no warrant for upsetting the law in Oklahoma — much less nationwide — regarding the allocation of criminal jurisdiction in Indian country,” the tribes argue.
While defending their sovereign right to prosecute cases involving their citizens, the Five Tribes argue that state prosecutors don’t do a great job themselves in their handling of existing cases, noting that the state cleared only about 36% of reported murders, rapes, robberies and violent crimes in 2019.
“A study found that where states and federal jurisdiction is concurrent, States often have proven to be less cooperative and predictable than the federal government in their exercise of authority,” a cited study found.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the matter April 27 followed by a decision expected by sometime mid-year.
McGirt v. Oklahoma: Supreme Court decision and aftermath
April 24: Gov. Stitt concerned about what McGirt ruling doesn't say, its far-reaching interpretations
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expressly limits the scope of its 2020 McGirt decision to major criminal cases would be an acceptable if not optimal result of the state’s ongoing litigation in the matter, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday.
“If it’s limited just to criminal (cases), we can absolutely fix this,” Stitt said during a visit to the Tulsa World. “We absolutely can sit down and fix this.”
Click here to read the story.
April 13, 2022: City can still issue traffic citations to Native citizens
A 19th century-era federal law grants Oklahoma cities in Indian Country jurisdiction over all of its inhabitants, including Native Americans, when they violate municipal ordinances in spite of the McGirt decision, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson issued the ruling in response to an appeal filed by Justin Hooper, a Choctaw man who challenged the legality of the city of Tulsa prosecuting him for a traffic ticket issued to him by a city of Tulsa police officer.
Click here to read more
March 31, 2022: Gov. Stitt calls McGirt ruling 'preposterous' on Fox News' 'Tucker Carlson Tonight'
Gov. Kevin Stitt agreed with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling is based on race and means people in Oklahoma are treated differently by law enforcement depending upon the racial category they’re in.
“The state — if there is an Indian involved — has lost jurisdiction to prosecute those crimes; our police have lost jurisdiction,” Stitt told Carlson. “When you think about ‘who’s an Indian,’ you could be one-500th, one-1,000th.”
Click here to read more
March 9, 2022: City of Tulsa says McGirt ruling makes tribal members second-class citizens
Native American crime victims have been treated like second-class citizens as many criminal cases involving them have gone unprosecuted since the landmark McGirt ruling, the city of Tulsa said in a U.S. Supreme Court filing.
“Tulsa police officers have referred thousands of cases to federal prosecutors and tribal authorities — but only a tiny fraction of these cases have been meaningfully prosecuted,” the city claimed in a friend of the court brief filed with the Supreme Court.
Click here to read more
Feb. 23, 2022: Supreme Court won't hear McGirt arguments from state of Oklahoma
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear 19 criminal cases involving Oklahoma defendants, most of whom were challenging the state’s decision that the 2020 McGirt ruling was not retroactive.
Among those losing appeals were seven inmates challenging their murder convictions and death sentences at least in part based on McGirt claims.
Click here to read more
Feb. 22, 2022: Federal lawsuit challenges Oklahoma's right to tax Native Americans
Harold Meashintubby and Nellie Meashintubby of McAlester have asked a judge to decide whether the rationale behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 McGirt decision also applies to civil tax matters.
In their complaint, the couple cites prior court decisions finding tribal citizens exempt from state taxes when they work and live on the reservation.
Click here to read more
Feb. 7, 2022: Gov. Stitt says ‘That’s not fair' regarding McGirt-related case at State of the State
Pamela Sue Chuculate-Sequichie remained impassive and stern while showcasing her fight for justice in front of dozens of Oklahoma policy makers.
Gov. Kevin Stitt was using her late son as an example of protecting law and order, especially related to the McGirt decision, in his fourth State of the State Address in Oklahoma City.
Click here to read more
Feb. 2, 2022: 'It is not too late for us to begin anew,' Muscogee Nation Chief says
As part of his annual State of the Nation address, Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill said his administration is thankful for its partners and is still open to collaborating about the future of public safety on the reservation.
“To those who have refused to collaborate and have instead sought to sow chaos, fear and misunderstanding, I would extend yet another invitation to join us,” he said. “It is not too late for us to begin anew. If you’re willing to put your past rhetoric behind you, so are we."
Click here to read more
Jan. 22, 2022: Supreme Court lets McGirt ruling stand, will consider letting Oklahoma share jurisdiction
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by the state of Oklahoma to overrule its landmark 2020 McGirt ruling but said it would consider whether to allow the state to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against tribal members in Indian Country.
The decision not to overturn its own ruling is a blow to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, Gov. Kevin Stitt and state prosecutors who objected to the ruling and others who had determined the state lacked criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving American Indians in most of eastern Oklahoma.
Click here to read more
Jan. 16, 2022: Bizarre dog killing exposes limits to cross-deputization agreements in wake of McGirt ruling
The Supreme Court ruling doesn't mean police have no jurisdiction among tribal members in Broken Arrow, where neighbor dogs attacked a man's terriers. But it also doesn't provide an easy path to justice.
Click here to read the story.
Jan. 9, 2022: Most released due to McGirt have been charged either federally or tribally, Tulsa World analysis finds
As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to revisit its landmark McGirt ruling, new Oklahoma data indicates that the decision has caused the release of 235 inmates from prison, about a quarter of whom were released directly to the street with no federal or tribal charges filed, according to state records.
The rest, more than 71%, were charged either in federal or tribal court or held on unrelated charges.
Of the 68 released to the street, a little more than half were serving nonviolent or drug-related charges, while the rest were in prison for violent and/or sexually related offenses.
Dec. 14, 2021: Tribal leaders sound off as Stitt seeks change to hunting, fishing license compacts
The state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes signed compacts for tribal hunting and fishing licenses that went into effect in 2016. But after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt refused to renew the compacts at the existing rate after they expire at the end of the year, the Cherokee and Choctaw nations have announced that they will open hunting and fishing within their reservations to their citizens without state licenses.
“Gov. Stitt believes that all Oklahomans should receive equal treatment under the law and offered both the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation the opportunity to enter a compact to purchase licenses for their members by paying the same price (as) Oklahomans who are not tribal members,” said Charlie Hannema, a Stitt spokesman.
State game wardens will remain deputized on Cherokee land; the agreement that took effect one month after the Supreme Court's landmark McGirt decision will remain in place between the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, according to state officials.
Click here to read more.
Dec. 13, 2021: Supreme Court sets date with Oklahoma to respond to 40-plus McGirt appeals
The state of Oklahoma, with more than 40 petitions filed seeking to overturn or limit the McGirt ruling, is getting its shot next month after the U.S. Supreme Court picked a date to consider appeals related to its landmark decision.
Records indicate that the odds of the Supreme Court’s taking up the case are against the state.
The court receives 7,000 to 8,000 petitions to take cases each term, granting and hearing oral argument in about 80 of them.
Click here for the full story.
Dec. 12, 2021: Cherokee Nation disputes state's claim McGirt ruling has caused 'chaos'
Tribal leaders in Oklahoma continue to challenge the legal foundations upon which the state has built its arguments against the McGirt ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 7. Dec. 12, 2021:
Since the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals acknowledged in March that the Cherokee Nation reservation had never been disestablished, the nation has filed charges in 261 of 395 cases the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office has identified as raising McGirt challenges, the tribe said in its brief.
Cherokee Nation officials (pictured, Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.) assailed the state of Oklahoma’s attempts to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt ruling and defended the tribe’s handling of hundreds of cases that have resulted from the decision. Oct. 30, 2021:
Oct. 28, 2021: Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission asks city to withdraw brief on McGirt
The Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission voted unanimously at a special meeting to send a letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum and the Tulsa City Council requesting that the city withdraw its amicus brief in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. Oct. 28, 2021:
Oct. 21, 2021: State appellate court extends McGirt ruling to include Quapaw Nation
A state appellate court expanded the list of tribes whose reservations have never been disestablished by Congress to include the Quapaw Nation. The appellate court cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling as the reason for deciding the Quapaw Nation had never been disestablished. Oct. 21, 2021:
Sept. 18, 2021: Oklahoma AG asks Supreme Court again to reverse or limit McGirt
State Attorney General John O’Connor filed two new petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking the reversal of last year’s decision reaffirming the Muscogee reservation, or at least a ruling that Oklahoma still has jurisdiction over some crimes involving Native Americans in Indian Country. Sept. 18, 2021:
Aug. 27, 2021: Gov. Kevin Stitt says McGirt legal decision is state's 'most pressing issue'
while remaining mostly silent about the resurgence of COVID-19 or the new state law that limits local efforts to control it. Gov. Kevin Stitt again called last year’s McGirt decision Oklahoma’s “most pressing issue”
He spoke to the Tulsa Regional Chamber at the Cox Business Convention Center and within the Muscogee Nation less than a mile from its intersections with the Cherokee and Osage nations.
Aug. 26, 2021: Man at center of McGirt landmark legal case sentenced to 3 life sentences
U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III, while upholding the prosecution’s request for a longer sentence than recommended by federal guidelines,
, meaning at the same time. ordered McGirt, 72, to serve the life terms concurrently
“This court in good conscience cannot subject the public to the defendant’s predatory ways,” Heil said before sentencing McGirt.
Aug. 6, 2021: State asks U.S. Supreme Court to overturn landmark McGirt decision
a landmark case that has dramatically affected how crimes involving tribal land and members are prosecuted. New Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn
The 2020 McGirt ruling and subsequent state appeals court rulings held that certain tribe’s reservations were never disestablished and that therefore the state does not have jurisdiction to prosecute major crimes involving Native Americans in a large portion of eastern Oklahoma, including the city of Tulsa.
Aug. 1, 2021: U.S. House rejects $154 million for tribal judicial systems
Fourth District Congressman
"mini-bus" that would have moved $154 million from environmental programs to tribal courts was included in an en bloc vote that failed 232-192. Tom Cole's amendment to appropriations
Four Republicans sided with all Democrats.
The money was intended to help tribal governments deal with an exponentially growing caseload brought about by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2020 McGirt decision.
July 19, 2021: Osage Nation seeks court affirmation that its reservation also was never disestablished
“Under McGirt, there is no language sufficient to disestablish the Osage Nation Reservation that Congress established in 1872 to be the Osage Nation’s permanent home, using the Osage Nation’s own money to pay for it,”
. “The court should hold Congress to its word.” the tribe’s attorneys wrote
July 13, 2021: Contentious McGirt forum ends early after shout-down from audience
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and a panel of district attorneys
for victims of crime regardless of tribal citizenship. sought to explain their views on how the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision had unintended consequences
But Stitt ended the “McGirt v. Oklahoma Community Forum” roughly an hour earlier than planned, descending from the podium to jeers and chants of “Shame on you” due to audience members’ belief that prosecutors disrespected tribal sovereignty.
July 9, 2021: Cherokee Nation highlights expansion of legal system on anniversary of ruling
Before the U.S. Supreme Court changed the nature of criminal prosecutions on tribal land last year, the Cherokee Nation was filing on average six cases per month in its tribal court system, the tribe said.
, the tribe has reported filing more than 1,200 cases so far this year. on the first anniversary of the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling
July 8, 2021: 'McGirt v. Oklahoma Community Impact Forum' set for July 13; tribal leaders irked
The edginess of affairs between Oklahoma’s largest tribal governments and some state and local officials
after tribal leaders took exception to a “community impact forum” on the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. surfaced again July 8
June 10, 2021: '80s serial rapist's claim he is 'Indian' for criminal jurisdictional purposes rejected
A convicted serial rapist who claims his state convictions and seven life sentences should be voided is posing the following question for judges: When does one become an Indian for federal criminal jurisdiction purposes?
Steven Michael Burger, 58,
as he joins the hundreds of criminal defendants who have challenged their state convictions based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. is asking the legal system for the answer
May 26, 2021: U.S. Supreme Court signals they could limit ruling
The Supreme Court
, a sign the court may be willing to limit the fallout from last year's ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma remains a tribal reservation. granted Oklahoma's request to retain custody of a man who has been on death row for killing three Native Americans
The action came in the case of Shaun Bosse, whose conviction and death sentence for the murders of Katrina Griffin and her two young children were overturned by a state appeals court.
The order makes it likely that the high court will weigh in soon on the extent of its 5-4 ruling last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
May 19, 2021: State-Tribal Litigation Fund bill passes
The Oklahoma legislature passed House Bill 2951,
” to be controlled by a committee that presently has no members. which would create a $10 million “State-Tribal Litigation Fund,
Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Depew said would be used only for litigation stemming from the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma decision on state, federal and tribal jurisdictions, although the bill does not make that distinction.
May 17, 2021: How Cherokee Tribal courts are handling the surge in cases
Judicial systems across the eastern half of the state
10 months ago, which found that the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to prosecute criminal cases when they involve an American Indian and the crime occurs within 1860s-era boundaries of the Muscogee Nation. have seen unprecedented change in how they operate since the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt vs. Oklahoma ruling
Since the Supreme Court ruling, Oklahoma courts have expanded the decision so that it now includes crimes that occur within the reservations of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations.
May 11, 2021: Oklahoma congressman's bill would allow tribes to compact with state on criminal jurisdiction
that, if approved, would grant two Native American tribes the option of compacting with the state of Oklahoma over criminal jurisdiction without the need for involvement from federal officials. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole announced his introduction of legislation
Cole issued a statement saying the proposal for the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations is the product of “several months” of “serious and productive conversations with law enforcement officers across the Fourth District of Oklahoma,” which includes part of the Chickasaw Nation.
May 10, 2021: Cherokee, Chickasaw tribal chiefs announce support for federal legislation
The leaders of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations
on criminal jurisdictional matters in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. announced their support for federal legislation that would permit the two tribes to compact with the state
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a joint statement that they would support “narrow federal legislation that would authorize tribal-state compacting on criminal subject matter jurisdiction.”
April 29, 2021: State appeals court overturns two more death sentences
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
based on tribal jurisdiction claims, including those of five men convicted of murder. issued another round of opinions that overturned inmates’ convictions
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.
April 28, 2021: AG seeks to intervene in case of power plant objecting to property taxes
Attorney General Mike Hunter
that is protesting its property taxes, in part because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving tribal sovereignty. is seeking to join a Wagoner County lawsuit involving an electric power generating facility
In a motion filed in Wagoner County District Court, Hunter seeks to intervene in a lawsuit filed last August by Oneta Power LLC.
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
Gov. Kevin Stitt is using “overtly political rhetoric” to exaggerate some of the problems encountered as criminal jurisdiction is reshaped in eastern Oklahoma in the wake of last year’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision,
the Chickasaw Nation says.
“While differences over historic rulings are to be expected, the Oklahoma Governor has sensationalized and exaggerated accounts of transitional challenges, which actions have heightened political concerns over the process and undermined faith in law,” the tribe told the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in a legal brief.
April 9, 2021: Four serving life sentences in state prison to get new trials
Four more inmates serving life in state prisons for murder
due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling affecting tribal jurisdictions. will see their cases retried in federal court
Dallas Gene Hastings, Justin Dale Little (pictured at center), Steve Wayne Lockler Jr. and Gary Dewayne Boggs are the latest state inmates to see charges filed against them in Tulsa federal court.
April 8, 2021: Death-row inmate's state conviction, sentence are in jeopardy
A federal grand jury has indicted an inmate on Oklahoma’s death row, apparently in anticipation that his Rogers County murder conviction and death sentence
will be overturned on jurisdictional grounds linked to the McGirt Supreme Court ruling.
Benjamin Robert Cole Sr., 56, faces a federal charge of first-degree murder in Indian Country in connection with the 2002 murder of his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna Cole.
April 8, 2021: State appellate court dismisses five more cases on jurisdictional grounds
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
, on jurisdictional grounds linked to the 2020 Supreme Court McGirt decision. overturned five more state convictions, including two with life sentences
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.
April 6, 2021: Cherokee AG says some cases dismissed by ruling could go unretried
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill
due to the McGirt Supreme Court decision and called upon Congress to pass legislation aimed at resolving issues caused by the landmark ruling. said the tribe has been working hard to refile cases dismissed in state court
Hill, speaking during a virtual press conference, said the tribe has filed 440 criminal cases in tribal court in recent weeks in an effort to catch as many cases as it can before state courts release individuals from state prison sentences or pending state charges.
April 1, 2021: State appellate court expands McGirt ruling
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
, including two cases that expanded earlier rulings to now include the Choctaw and Seminole Nation reservations. overturned the convictions and sentences for eight inmates based upon tribal jurisdictional challenges
All eight rulings stem from the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling in July that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had never been disestablished by Congress for the purposes of federal criminal law, leaving the state of Oklahoma with no jurisdiction to try cases when an American Indian is involved and the crime occurred within the tribe’s historic boundaries.
March 31, 2021: 'Fracture' in criminal system created by decision, Tulsa County DA says
The Supreme Court decision affirming tribal jurisdiction within the Muscogee (Creek) reservation is causing concern at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler
and what he said is a “fracture” in how criminal cases are investigated and prosecuted. hosted a town hall to speak out about the decision
He called on members of the public to talk to their political leaders to come up with a solution to “fix” the divide and make sure victims continue to get justice.
March 18, 2021: Manslaughter conviction for ex-Tulsa Police officer overturned
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
given to a former Tulsa police officer, clearing the way for his eventual release while he faces similar charges in federal court. overturned a state manslaughter conviction and 15-year prison sentence
The state appellate court found that a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma issued last summer meant Shannon Kepler’s manslaughter conviction and sentence was invalid because the state didn’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute him.
March 14, 2021: Broken Arrow power plant claims county has no authority to levy property taxes
A tax protest like no other is taking place in Wagoner County, which if successful could broadly impact some public schools and other government bodies that rely on property taxes for much of their funding.
Oneta Power LLC, which owns a power plant at 25142 E. 105th St. in Broken Arrow,
based, in part, on claims that it doesn’t owe the county any property taxes, citing a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that dealt with tribal jurisdictions. is challenging an increase in its personal property tax valuation
March 11, 2021: Court ruling means hundreds of state criminal cases will be shifted to tribal or federal courts
Citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma issued last year,
that the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations were never formally disestablished by Congress. the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found
Though not unexpected, the rulings mean hundreds of state court cases will have to be shifted either to federal or tribal courts.
March 11, 2021: Cherokees expanding criminal justice system for larger role
With a ruling expected soon to affirm a broader jurisdiction for Cherokee Nation courts,
, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told the Tulsa World. the tribe has already begun a massive expansion of its criminal justice system
The tribe will need $35 million a year to fund more courtrooms, more prosecutors, more law enforcement officers and even more detention space, the chief said.
March 7, 2021: Former principal chief isn't happy as McGirt decision hits home
Former principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation A.D. Ellis
, and he’s not liking it. said he is feeling the effects of the Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt decision
Ellis said his family has been struggling to keep apprised of what is happening with their case since he and his wife woke up one late January morning at home to discover two of their pickup trucks were missing.
Ellis said he fears his case and others like it might go nowhere in the criminal justice system since the Supreme Court last summer ruled that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation from the 1860s had never been disestablished by Congress.
March 4, 2021: Rogers County judge dismisses over 100 criminal cases
The district attorney in Rogers County expressed concern regarding a recent court ruling that
because of jurisdictional issues. had the effect of dismissing more than 100 state criminal cases involving Native Americans
District Attorney Matt Ballard, whose district includes Rogers County, is referring to a decision by retired District Judge Dwayne Steidley that the DA said would expand a landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Feb. 1, 2021: Gov. Stitt takes on McGirt ruling during State of the State address
Gov. Kevin Stitt,
, painted a grim picture of rampant crime, unpaid taxes and society run amok unless questions arising from last year’s McGirt decision are settled soon. during his annual State of the State address
McGirt, said Stitt, is “the most pressing issue facing our state’s future.”
Jan. 28, 2021: McGirt decision impact on state oil and gas industry examined during OEPA briefing
The McGirt decision’s impact on the oil and gas industry
held for state legislators by the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance. was a major topic at a briefing
OEPA President Dewey Bartlett Jr. presided over the roughly 100-minute online event, during which Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter spoke at length about the state’s economic future.
“One of my most important responsibilities is protecting the state’s economic activities,” Hunter said. “There’s no more important stream of commerce in this state than the exploration and production of hydrocarbons.”
Jan. 23, 2021: Oklahoma governor urges tribes to begin negotiating issues
to enter into negotiations with the state over issues arising from last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. Gov. Kevin Stitt urged the state’s tribal governments
“It is critically important that the State of Oklahoma and the leaders of Oklahoma’s tribes impacted by the McGirt decision begin negotiations, in earnest, to resolve the potential ramifications of this ruling,” Stitt said in a written statement.
Jan. 15, 2021: Tribes want Congress to allow criminal justice compacts with Oklahoma
Some tribal representatives
to deal with the implementation of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case regarding criminal jurisdiction. want Congress to allow them to compact with the state
“The decision in McGirt substantially changes how crime is prosecuted throughout eastern Oklahoma,” said Sara Hill, Cherokee Nation attorney general.
Other tribes, including the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws and Seminoles, say the ruling applies to their reservations, as well.
Jan. 8, 2021: Former Tulsa police officer's double-jeopardy, statute-of-limitations claims denied
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell said the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy — multiple prosecutions for the same offense — doesn’t apply in Shannon James Kepler’s case.
Kepler was convicted in Tulsa County District Court of manslaughter in Jeremy Lake’s death, but
last year. He is awaiting a decision from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. he has appealed that conviction on the grounds that he was tried in the wrong jurisdiction based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling
“Under the circumstances, a fifth trial does not violate Mr. Kepler’s substantive due process rights,” Frizzell wrote in the opinion.
Jan. 4, 2021: McGirt decision results in record number of criminal federal filings in 2020
Tulsa federal prosecutors obtained
last year, largely due to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer. a record number of grand jury indictments
A record 291 indictments involving 449 defendants were filed in 2020 in the federal Northern District of Oklahoma, an 11-county region that includes Tulsa. By comparison, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores’ office obtained 202 indictments in 2019 for 366 defendants, said Lennea Montandon, spokesperson for Shores’ office.
Nearly half of the indictments were a result of a July Supreme Court decision.
Nov. 7, 2020: Federal jury finds McGirt guilty in retrial
A jury deliberated about an hour before
of sexually molesting a 4-year-old girl in 1996 at a Broken Arrow home. finding Jimcy McGirt guilty again
The guilty verdict follows three days of testimony in Muskogee federal court.
McGirt, 72, was retried after the U.S. Supreme Court in July threw out his 1997 state convictions and no parole life sentence.
Oct. 23, 2020: Gov. Stitt panel releases principles for state-tribe relations
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty
the state use in dealing with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, but not all of the state’s Native American tribes are happy with it. released a list of five over-arching principles it proposes
Stitt appointed the commission in July to form recommendations in the wake of McGirt v. Oklahoma, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that determined that the federal government and tribes — not the state — have jurisdiction over major crimes involving tribal citizens in Indian Country, including much of eastern Oklahoma. But the case could impact other areas, such as taxation, as well.
Oct. 5, 2020: McGirt ruling could have impact on state tax collections
A report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission indicates the decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma
. could reduce the amount of individual income tax and sales and use taxes collected by the state
“The Oklahoma Tax Commission anticipates a significant, immediate and ongoing fiscal impact resulting from the expanded boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation under McGirt,” wrote Executive Director Jay Doyle in a letter.
Oct. 1, 2020: Attorney General Bill Barr meets with Cherokee Nation leadership, local federal prosecutors
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice intends to dedicate more than $7.5 million to the Cherokee Nation as it expands its court system following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was not disestablished for purposes of enforcing the federal Major Crimes Act.
, Barr said he was looking forward to discussing how the DOJ and the Cherokee Nation can “jointly meet at least the short-term challenges that we face with the McGirt decision,” named for Seminole Nation citizen Jimcy McGirt. In a visit to the Cherokee Nation headquarters
“Unfortunately, COVID interfered with my travel plans for six months,” Barr said during a press briefing.
Aug. 29, 2020: Man charged in 1990s rapes freed due to McGirt ruling
Leroy Jemol Smith, 50, who was connected by recent DNA tests to several Muskogee rape cases from the 1990s, may not have to face prosecution after
. a federal court decision ordering his release
U.S. prosecutors have filed an emergency order to get Smith back in custody to await trial.
Aug. 14, 2020: McGirt makes federal court appearance in child sex abuse case
from the Muskogee County jail for his initial appearance on a federal charge of sexual abuse of a minor in Indian Country. appeared before a judge via teleconferencing
The complaint was filed before he was released from state custody in accordance with the Supreme Court decision, which reversed an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision denying his jurisdictional challenge.
Aug. 7, 2020: McGirt-related murder cases increase Tulsa federal court's caseload
The Supreme Court ruling
where the crime occurred within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation and the victim or defendant was American Indian. has prompted state officials to dismiss pending cases
Federal officials have picked up the dismissed cases involving major crimes and assumed jurisdiction in new cases where the crime occurred in Indian Country and at least one of the parties was American Indian.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said in a statement that a grand jury issued a record 50 indictments this month, including 10 linked to homicides.
Aug. 1, 2020: Feds file charges against two men whose state convictions were overturned
Two men who won appeals that led to the Supreme Court declaring earlier this month that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation was never disestablished,
<&underline> now face charges in federal court</&underline>
. A U.S. District Court magistrate this week approved the filing of criminal complaints against Patrick Dwayne Murphy, 51, and Jimcy McGirt, 71. Murphy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in state court in connection with the 1999 McIntosh County stabbing and beating death of George Jacobs Sr., 49.
July 29, 2020: Attorneys general for Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation discuss ruling on 'Let's Talk'
Two attorneys general, one for the state of Oklahoma, the other for the Cherokee Nation, agree on at least a few things resulting from a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that said Congress never disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation.
Those aspects: 1) The court decision did not affect individual property rights; 2) Congress will be needed to close jurisdictional gaps created by the decision; and 3) both the state and the tribes need to work together as Congress considers closing those gaps.
Those issues and more were featured during another
Tulsa World “Let’s Talk” virtual town hall program.
July 21, 2020: Gov. Stitt forms commission to study impact of decision on state
Gov. Kevin Stitt
to delve into the ramifications of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared much of eastern Oklahoma to still be a Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation for major crime jurisdictional purposes. announced the formation of a state commission
Stitt’s announcement comes after the state attorney general’s attempt a week earlier at presenting a united front to Congress fell apart.
Other commission members include both former and current lawmakers, as well as those representing energy, farm and real estate interests. No tribal representatives were included on the board named by Stitt, although a press release from his office notes that one tribal representative may be included along with a representative from the Attorney General’s Office and the District Attorneys Council.
July 20, 2020: Oklahoma AG tracking scores of appeals that could be affected by decision
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office
— who have filed challenges to their state court convictions based on claims that the state of Oklahoma didn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute them. has compiled a list of 178 individuals — including 44 in Tulsa County
The list maintained by the Attorney General’s Office includes filings up to April 23 and covers cases both pending and disposed of by court rulings. The list of 178 cases does not include, for the most part, cases still in state district court because the Attorney General’s Office does not receive notice of those, said Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for Hunter’s office.
July 17, 2020: Attorney general, tribes reach agreement on jurisdictional issues
State and tribal leaders
regarding a proposed federal law that one tribal law expert said would, in part, provide for the state to resume jurisdiction in most criminal cases now under federal control. announced that an agreement-in-principle had been reached
State Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a news release that the agreement is the “best path forward for protecting the public and promoting continued economic growth in Oklahoma” despite more details to be worked out.
“My commitment to our tribal partners is to work together to forge common ground on the issues brought to light by this case,” Hunter said. “Oklahoma’s tribal nations are a fundamental part of Oklahoma’s culture, economy, politics and governance. The relationship between the tribes and my office is based on trust and mutual respect.
“And that synergism has been essential to the successful formation of this important agreement.”
July 15, 2020: Ruling could affect case of mother charged with killing children
ANuyaka woman jailed for more than 18 months in the shooting deaths of her two children
due to the children’s Native American ancestry. could face federal prosecution instead of going before an Okmulgee County jury this year
Amy Leann Hall, 39, has been in custody without bond since November 2018 on murder charges related to the fatal shooting of her 18-year-old son, Kayson Tolliver, and 16-year-old daughter, Kloee Toliver, at their home near Beggs.
Hall is additionally accused of shooting at her 14-year-old daughter and was ultimately arrested after reportedly leading authorities on a high-speed chase.
July 14, 2020: Homicide in Tulsa 'first real test' of decision
, the day after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that redefined what federal and state prosecutors have historically known as “Indian Country.” A Tulsa man was accused in the death of his girlfriend, a Cherokee Nation citizen
Authorities arrested James Michael Landry, 29, in connection with the fatal shooting of Crystal Bradley, 45, Tulsa Police Lt. Brandon Watkins said. Landry was charged in federal court on a complaint of first-degree murder in Indian Country, according to court documents.
“The day after the Supreme Court ruling that eastern Oklahoma’s an Indian Reservation, we had our first real test of how this will work,” Watkins said.
July 12, 2020: Decision to have little impact on nontribal residents, TU law professor says
Aila Hoss, an expert in American Indian law,
that while she believes the criminal case won by Jimcy McGirt will be cited in future criminal litigation for “the next decades,” the ruling will have a very limited application in the short term. said in an interview
“The only thing this case does is reaffirm that states don’t have criminal jurisdiction on tribal reservation lands when we are dealing with an Indian defendant who has been accused of a major crime,” Hoss said.
July 10, 2020: Tribal law expert calls ruling 'most important' in state history
“I think this is the most important decision in Oklahoma history in terms of sovereignty for the state of Oklahoma and sovereignty for the five tribes,”
. said Mike McBride III, an attorney with Crowe & Dunlevy
However, McBride said he doesn’t believe that there will be a flood of appeals by tribal members seeking to overturn their state convictions.
“There may be many cases where there’s a Native American who had committed a crime on Indian lands, or Indian Country under the Major Crimes Act statute, that is in jail or prison and would want to challenge that conviction,” McBride said.
July 9, 2020: U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision
The Supreme Court ruled that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation, a decision that state and federal officials have warned could throw Oklahoma into chaos. The court’s 5-4 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, means that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants in parts of Oklahoma that include most of Tulsa, the second-largest city.
December 2019: U.S. Supreme Court to hear McGirt v. Oklahoma
Jimcy McGirt, 71,
for a series of sex crimes. A Wagoner County District Court judge sentenced him that year to more than a millennia in prison. is challenging an Oklahoma state court’s jurisdiction over him in his convictions in 1997
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.
McGirt v. Oklahoma: Supreme Court decision and aftermath
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