Friday, July 08, 2022

Stitt, O'Connor celebrate major SCOTUS ruling limiting McGirt

I was out of town on a church mission trip and missed this news, but I'm going to post it belatedly anyway because of how important it is:

State Prevails at U.S. Supreme Court, Can Protect Crime Victims in Eastern Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 29, 2022) - Attorney General John O'Connor released the following statement, “Today, the U.S. Supreme Court stood up for the safety of Oklahomans of native American heritage in eastern Oklahoma.  The Supreme Court recognized Oklahoma’s sovereignty and jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in eastern Oklahoma. 

“Federal prosecutors are only prosecuting one in four felony referrals from law enforcement officers in eastern Oklahoma.  Now the State prosecutors can take up the slack and get back to what we have been doing for 113 years.  The Biden DOJ predicted a “surge” in crime in eastern Oklahoma in 2023.  With this decision, hopefully that surge can be avoided.

“This decision significantly limits the impact of McGirt.  It vindicates my office’s years-long effort to protect all Oklahomans—Indians and non-Indians alike—from the lawlessness produced by the McGirt decision.  While we still have a long road ahead of us to fix all of the harms our State has experienced as a consequence of McGirt, this is an important first step in restoring law and order in our great State.

“As we move forward, Oklahoma welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with our tribal and federal partners from both the eastern and western sides of the state.  As those that brought our Great State together knew, Labor Omnia Vincit – labor conquers all things.  It will take hard work and an unwavering willingness to do the right thing for the right reasons to ensure every Oklahoman, regardless of ancestry, receives equal justice under the law.”


OKLAHOMA CITY (June 29, 2022) — Governor Kevin Stitt released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta:

“Today’s ruling is a clear victory for all four million Oklahomans, the state of Oklahoma, and the rule of law. I am heartened that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor, allowing Oklahoma to prosecute non-Natives who violate the law and protect Native victims. Since the Court’s 2020 McGirt decision, federal prosecutors have declined thousands of cases like Castro-Huerta, a non-Native who monstrously abused his 5-year old Native stepdaughter. Justice has been delayed and denied to thousands of Native victims in our state for no reason other than their race. Now Oklahoma law enforcement can help uphold and enforce the law equally, as we have done for over a century.

“This is a pivotal moment. For two years, as a fourth generation Oklahoman, member of the Cherokees, and Governor of the state of Oklahoma, I have been fighting for equal protection under the law for all citizens. Today our efforts proved worthwhile and the Court upheld that Indian country is part of a State, not separate from it. I look forward to working with leaders across the state to join our efforts in combatting the criminal-justice crisis in Oklahoma following McGirt.”

Read the Supreme Court’s majority opinion here.

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to “Treat Indian Victims as Second-Class Citizens,” Rules for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 29, 2022) - In a victory for the State of Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court today recognized the authority of the State of Oklahoma to prosecute non-Indian criminals who injure or take the lives or property of Indians in eastern Oklahoma.  For the first time since the McGirt decision, Oklahoma can prosecute non-Indian criminals anywhere within the State’s borders, whether or not the victim is Indian.

“All Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, will now receive equal protection against being victimized by non-Indian criminals,” said Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.

“[T]he Court’s precedents establish that Indian country is part of a State’s territory,” the Court said. “States do not need a permission slip from Congress to exercise their sovereign authority.”  Accordingly, the Court “conclude[d] that the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country.”

In this case, Castro, a Mexican national, was convicted by a State court jury of abusing his five year-old Indian stepdaughter.  Castro argued that, because his victim was Indian, Oklahoma could not prosecute him.  The Indian nations agreed with Castro in a brief filed with the Supreme Court.  Castro argued that he could avoid State prosecution by harming only Indians.  In rejecting his argument, the Court observed that Castro “would require this Court to treat Indian victims as second-class citizens.  We decline to do so.”

“I commend the Supreme Court for its courage.  Today’s ruling is an important first step in restoring law and order in our great State,” said General O’Connor. “The State is committed to the safety of all Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, and now non-Indian criminals cannot use discrimination to escape justice.”

In addition to its win as a petitioner in Castro-Huerta, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has also submitted amicus briefs on the prevailing side of twelve (12) cases at the U.S. Supreme Court this term. These briefs have resulted in decisions defending the Second Amendment right to bear arms, protecting the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, and overturning Roe v. Wade, allowing States to defend the unborn and returning major policy decisions to the people and their elected representatives.

To read the opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, click here. To read the Attorney General’s brief, click here.


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