OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Following a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court regarding tribal land in Oklahoma, state leaders are addressing what is next for some cases that are now under appeal.
On July 9, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished. It’s a ruling that has a big impact on the state’s criminal justice system.
“For anybody that has an Indian card, a CDIB card, a certified degree of Indian blood,” Native American law attorney Robert Gifford told KFOR. “If they are within the Creek Nation, the state of Oklahoma had no jurisdiction over them.”
As it stands, these decisions alter the State’s legal jurisdiction and law enforcement capabilities on potentially a significant portion of eastern Oklahoma, creating uncertainty for many Oklahomans.
In the weeks since the Supreme Court’s decision, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says there has been a flood of inmates attempting to challenge their state convictions.
On Monday, Hunter says his office filed a brief, asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to step in and provide guidance for the cases affected by the McGirt ruling.
He says many of the inmates claim that the crimes they committed occurred on historic tribal lands, so the state doesn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute them.
“In general, the McGirt decision by the United States Supreme Court has created a significant amount of confusion, especially in regards to inmates who are serving time in state custody for crimes committed on historic tribal lands,” Hunter said.
Hunter says his office is going to oppose those requests.
“The McGirt case does not constitute a get out of prison free card,” Hunter said. “We are not going to allow our justice system to be exploited by individuals who have murdered, raped, or committed another crime of a serious nature while the federal government considers whether to rearrest or adjudicate their cases.”
Specifically, the filing is in regards to the case involving Shaun Bosse, a man convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her two children.
In 2012, Shaun Bosse was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, 25-year-old Katrina Griffin, and her two young children, 8-year-old Christian Griffin and 6-year-old Chasity Hammer.
In 2010, authorities discovered the bodies of the family in a burned out mobile home near Dibble.
Bosse’s attorneys argue that since the victims were Native American and the crime occurred on Chickasaw lands, the state didn’t have the authority to prosecute him.
“We take the position that the state has a right and a responsibility to protect Indian citizens from those who murder, like Mr. Bosse,” Hunter said.
Last week the AG’s office argued against the first appeal based on the McGirt decision in Pottawatomie County.
Attorney Jaye Mendros represents the defendant in that case.
She says Hunter bringing up the Bosse case today is just a scare tactic.
“It’s fear mongering. He is trying to make the state afraid to comply with the Supreme Court mandate. I’m not sure exactly what he means by it’s up to the state to decide what to do with the Supreme Court decision,” Mendros told News 4. “What the state has to do with the Supreme Court Decision is follow it.”
Along with Bosse’s appeal, Hunter says there has been a “flood” of cases seeking an appeal.
“Make no mistake about it, my team and I plan to challenge every single appeal of convictions that happen on historic tribal land,” he said.
In regards to the filing, Hunter says his team is asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for guidance, specifically on the clarification of how Native American status is to be proven. He is asking for the court to put the burden of proving Native American status on the defendant and that the crime happened within the legal boundary of a reservation.
Hunter says he also hopes that a court will determine if the ruling applies to all tribal land, or just Muscogee (Creek) territory.