Oklahoma AG Asks State Court of Criminal Appeals to Issue Post-McGirt Guidance

Aug 3, 2020

Credit File photo

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a brief on Monday asking the state Court of Criminal Appeals for guidance on cases affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v Oklahoma.

Hunter says his office has received notice of around 200 appeals based on the idea the ruling means the feds, not the state, have jurisdiction on tribal lands. One of those appeals is from death-row inmate Shaun Bosse, a man convicted of brutally murdering Chickasaw citizen Katrina Griffin and her two children.

“We are not going to allow our justice system to be exploited by individuals who have murdered, raped or committed and other crime of a serious nature while the federal government considers whether to rearrest and adjudicate their cases,” Hunter said.

Hunter believes the state should at least have concurrent jurisdiction over defendants who are not tribal citizens, even if their crimes were committed against tribal members on tribal lands, and that the burden of proof for citizenship should be on defendants.

“The position that we’re taking with regard to that, we believe, is in the best interest of the tribes. Sovereigns certainly should not want individuals who don’t have legitimate status as members of their tribe to take advantage of the McGirt decision,” Hunter said.

In a statement, ACLU Oklahoma Director of Policy and Advocacy Nicole McAfee called Hunter’s filing his “latest attempt to circumvent tribal sovereignty.”

“As we’ve said before, there is much work to be done to unravel the decades of cases in which the State of Oklahoma wrongfully claimed jurisdiction over tribal citizens on tribal reservations, and we urge the AG’s office to do that work, instead of trying to hold onto whatever jurisdiction it thinks it has,” McAfee said.

Hunter’s office estimated there may be as many as 2,000 cases where defendants may appeal convictions based on the concept the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction.