WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US Supreme Court says it wants to hear arguments a second time in the Carpenter vs. Murphy case, which involves the 1999 murder conviction of Patrick Murphy who argues the State of Oklahoma had no right to prosecute him because he’s a Native American and the crime occurred on a reservation.
Jennifer Lamirand, a litigator and Indian law & gaming attorney, says the court’s decision to hold off could point to a split in opinions from the justices.
“The speculation is we potentially have a four, four tie going on,” Lamirand told News 4. “Or just disagreement among the justices with which way they want to go on the opinions, and they haven’t worked it out yet.”
Murphy’s lawyer, Ian Gershengorn, says the crime occurred in an area of Eastern Oklahoma granted to the Creek Nation by the Federal Government in 1866, and the area is still considered an Indian Reservation because it was never dis-established by Congress.
Therefore, Murphy’s case should have been tried in federal court.
“There are a lot of things that really point to keeping the reservation status in this case,” Lamirand says. “Because we haven`t seen anyone identify a clear congressional statement to say nope, no reservation.”
In the past, the state has said the outcome of the case could mean potential changes in civil and criminal law.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter released a new statement on Thursday’s Supreme Court decision.
“This case has implications for millions of Oklahomans, both tribal and non-tribal citizens,” Attorney General Hunter said. “It is vital to the state that the Supreme Court justices make the right decision on behalf of all Oklahomans. While today’s court action does not alter the status quo, it demonstrates the care and consideration the justices are putting into this case. Meanwhile, my team and I will continue proactively working with our tribal partners on our shared interests. A top priority for our office is to continue to preserve and grow our unity and prosperity. We look forward to the opportunity to again argue our case and ensure justice is served for the family and loved ones of George Jacobs, the Oklahoman and member of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, who was brutally murdered by Patrick Murphy.”
Lamirand said when this case comes up for re-argument she expects the justices to have specific questions they want answered to help them come to a decision.