The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Thursday a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains a Native American reservation, meaning Oklahoma prosecutors do not have the authority to pursue criminal cases against Native American’s in those parts of the state.
The decision involved Jimcy McGirt who is serving a 500-year prison sentence for molesting a minor. McGirt argued his case did not belong in Oklahoma courts and should instead belong to federal prosecutors.
The court ruled 5-4 in McGirt’s favor. The ruling is based on the argument the crime occurred on land assigned to the Muscogee (Creek) tribe before Oklahoma became a state and congress never clearly eliminated the reservation.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter released a joint statement with leaders from the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole Tribes.
“We have made substantial progress toward an agreement to present to Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice addressing and resolving any significant jurisdictional issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma,” the statement said. “The nations and the state are committed to ensuring McGirt, Patrick Murphy and all other offenders face justice for the crimes for which they are accused. We have shared commitmentot maintaining public safety and long-term economic prosperity for the nations and Oklahoma.”
“The nations and the state are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction which will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws and regulations which support public safety, our economy and private property right,” the statement said. “We will continue our work, confident we can accomplish more together than any of us could alone.”
U.S. Senators James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, also issued statements about the decision.
“Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling determines the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was not dis-established when Oklahoma became a state,” Lankford said. “The work will continue in the days ahead to clarify a framework for criminal and civil regulatory jurisdiction which provides consistency and predictability for all people living and doing business within the state. However, I am grateful for the commitment from the state and the five tribes to with the delegation to craft legislation that ensures that the ruling has a minimal impact on individuals and businesses throughout Oklahoma. Our greatest priority should be to provide for the safety of communities by ensuring those serving time for crimes continue to do so, and individuals that commit crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law. I look forward to working with the tribes, the state, and other members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation to finding a solution acceptable to all parties.”
“Thursday’s ruling on McGirt v. Oklahoma sheds light on an issue debated for some time now,” Inhofe said. “As we move forward, I have no doubt we can work together with state officials, tribal organizations, and the delegation to find a workable solution for everyone which ensures criminals are prosecuted and brought to justice in the most appropriate manner. We have a duty to all American citizens to uphold the Constitution and stand up for victim’s rights. Our number one priority will always be the safety of each and every Oklahoman.”
Oklahoma’s delegates from the U.S. House of Representatives also issued a joint statement on the ruling.
“Thursday, the Supreme Court provided a longawaited ruling on McGirt v. Oklahoma on an issue concerning the Five Tribes of Oklahoma and all Oklahomans,” the statement said. “We are reviewing the decision carefully and stand ready to work with both tribal and state officials to ensure stability and consistency in applying law which brings all criminals to justice. Indeed, no criminal is ever exempt or immune from facing justice, and we remain committed to working together to both affirm tribal sovereignty and ensure safety and justice for all Oklahomans.”