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New Oklahoma attorney general petitions U.S. Supreme Court on McGirt decision

John O'Connor, new Oklahoma Attorney General
Posted at 3:10 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-07 00:55:22-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — New Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor filed a petition on Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark 2020 McGirt vs. Oklahoma ruling.

The decision ruled that a large part of eastern Oklahoma, including the City of Tulsa, is still considered tribal land, thus taking the prosecution of crimes on that land from local authorities and handing it to federal authorities.

Since the ruling, multiple closed cases have reopened as convicted individuals can be retried under federal jurisdiction.

“Victims of atrocious crimes are being revictimized by going through the legal process a second time, and, in some instances, seeing their loved one’s killer set free because federal prosecutors cannot file the claims against the released convicts,” O’Connor said.

“Some theories sound good in concept but don’t work in the real world. The U.S. Supreme Court got this decision wrong and we are respectfully asking the Court to overturn its decision or to limit it to certain federal crimes. The most effective way to right this terrible wrong is for the court to overturn the McGirt decision. Without action, the negative consequences will damage Oklahomans for years to come.”

O'Connor became the official replacement for former Attorney General Mike Hunter on July 23.

The petition also asks the court to narrow any application of the McGirt decision, including allowing the state to continue to imprison violent felons convicted before the ruling, and asks the court to affirm the state’s authority to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans on Muscogee (Creek) reservation land.

Attorney General O’Connor said the McGirt decision is “recklessly overbroad” and has thrown Oklahomans into danger of having no law enforcement respond to a call for help.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. released a statement following the petition accusing O'Connor and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt of "advancing an anti-Indian political agenda."

"The United States government promised us, through treaty, a reservation and the authority to govern our citizens. It has been over a year since the Supreme Court's McGirt decision reaffirmed that promise, during which tribes have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies to cooperate on supporting victims and keeping Oklahomans safe. After over a century of the state of Oklahoma illegally acting outside of its jurisdiction, it is not surprising that there are still defendants who must be tried by tribal or federal courts, still victims who must be supported during this transitional time, and other work that must be done to reverse the suppression of our nation’s justice system. But tribes and our partners have proven themselves up to the task.

"Unfortunately, the governor and the attorney general of Oklahoma have chosen not to join these efforts but to once again seek to undermine cooperation by attempting to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling. With today's filing in Bosse v. Oklahoma, they have made clear this was never about protecting victims or stopping crime, but simply advancing an anti-Indian political agenda. The governor has never attempted to cooperate with the tribes to protect all Oklahomans. It is perfectly clear that it has always been his intent to destroy Oklahoma’s reservations and the sovereignty of Oklahoma tribes, no matter what the cost might be.

"We look forward to the Supreme Court again affirming the law and our reservations, and hope the governor and attorney general can put aside their political posturing to do what is right for all the people of Oklahoma."
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

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