McGirt v Oklahoma Overview
On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court decided on McGirt v Oklahoma. They sided with defendant, McGirt, who had been charged with three counts of sexual crimes.
His trial began here in Wagoner County in August of 1996. In 1997, he was convicted for his crimes and given a sentence of life without parole, along with two 500-year sentences.
After an unsuccessful appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, he sought an audience with the United States Supreme Court in April of 2019. He asserted that Oklahoma didn’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute him since he was a Seminole tribal member and the crimes were committed on Muscogee (Creek) tribal land.
Once the Supreme Court took his case, they had to determine whether the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had exclusive jurisdiction for crimes committed on their land by tribal members. In order to do this, they needed to ascertain whether the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) reservation in Oklahoma had ever been disestablished.
Their decision on July 9th declared that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation’s boundaries were still established. Therefore, Oklahoma didn’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute McGirt.
Because McGirt’s crimes were included in the Major Crimes Act of 1885, his case had to be handled in federal court. In August of 2020, the federal grand jury of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma indicted McGirt on three counts of sexual violence. He was sentenced to at least 90 years in prison and fined up to $750,000.
The criminal defense attorneys at Wirth Law Office – Wagoner have been handling McGirt cases in Oklahoma since the United States Supreme Court’s decision stripped Oklahoma of its jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians on tribal land. We have attorneys licensed to practice in both tribal court and federal court.
McGirt v Oklahoma sets an important precedent for crimes committed on tribal land. While it originally applied only to tribal members who committed crimes on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, it was later expanded by various cases.
Oklahoma now lacks jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians on all of the Five Civilized Tribes’ reservations. These include the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nations. Other tribes in Oklahoma have also been included.
While McGirt was a member of the Seminole Nation, he committed his crimes on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation. Instead of arguing that the Seminole Nation had jurisdiction, he argued that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation did. It’s similar to a resident of Wagoner being tried in Tulsa for a crime they committed in Tulsa.
Both misdemeanors and felonies committed by Indians on tribal land can be tried in tribal court. However, felonies that are included in the Major Crimes Act often become federal cases.
Another thing to consider is the statute of limitations. If five years have passed since someone committed a crime, they can no longer be tried for that crime on the tribal or federal level. Notable exceptions are murder and sexual assault of a minor.
The McGirt decision originally applied retroactively, which meant any Indian convicted of a crime committed on tribal land could appeal that conviction on the basis that Oklahoma had always lacked jurisdiction.
However, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in August of 2021 that McGirt was a new rule of criminal procedure that did not apply retroactively.
This affected Indians who had already filed for post-conviction relief. They now face delays and possibly rejection. These people may still receive post-conviction relief if they applied prior to OCCA’s decision. Plus, their decision could still be overturned.
In addition to McGirt expanding to apply to multiple tribes, it has also been expanded to include Indian victims. Crimes committed on tribal lands against Indians now fall under McGirt, even if the person who committed the crime isn’t Indian.
For a defendant to claim that McGirt applies to their case, they must prove three things. The first is that the crime was committed on tribal land. The second is that either they or their victim is a tribal member. The third is that they or their victim has some quantum of Indian blood.
Free Consultation with a Wagoner Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime and you believe your case falls under McGirt, contact a criminal defense attorney from Wirth Law Office – Wagoner. Almost half of Oklahoma is currently considered tribal land, including Wagoner county. If you or your victim is Indian, there’s a good chance the case falls under tribal jurisdiction.
Our skilled defense attorneys have been handling McGirt cases since the beginning. They have the experience and expertise to handle yours. For a free consultation, call (918) 485-0335 or fill out the form at the top of the page.