OCCA: McGirt’s Theory of State “A Political Question” Only Congress Can Address | criminality
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said the court “had no choice” when it ruled Thursday that the state of Oklahoma cannot prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans on a reservation.
The OCCA has ruled that the Oklahoma state theory that concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government is a âpolitical issueâ can only be dealt with with Congress, not with the court.
The ruling came in a 2013 case from Wagoner District Court against Richard Ray Roth, who was convicted in state court of first-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Roth is accused of driving while intoxicated when he collided with and killed a 12-year-old Native American boy on a bicycle in Wagoner.
Records show Roth was sentenced to 19 years in prison by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections along with fines for the crimes.
The OCCA ruled Thursday that the district court’s judgment and sentence should be set aside and remanded on remand with removal instructions with the warrant to go into effect for up to 20 days from Thursday’s ruling.
“Based on the overwhelming weight of the authority governing this issue, we conclude that the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute the crimes charged here due to the victim’s Indian status and the occurrence of the crimes in the Indian country, âthe court wrote in its opinion.
The state of Oklahoma argued that it had concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government over the crimes alleged in the case and over all crimes committed by non-Native Americans against Native Americans.
Roth’s attorneys argued that the federal court had exclusive jurisdiction over Roth because there was no federal law authorizing state jurisdiction in the case.
The OCCA rejected the argument of concurrent state jurisdiction and said its opinion in the case is now the controlling authority on the matter in the state and should be relied on by the court, the bar and the public from that date.
“Under federal law, jurisdiction over the murder by appellant of the victim, a Cherokee Indian, on the Creek Reservation, rests exclusively with the federal government,” the court wrote.
The Court of Appeal wrote that although Congress has allowed states to exercise their criminal jurisdiction over the Indian country in limited circumstances, the state “has never asserted its right under federal law to exercise its jurisdiction over any part of the Indian country within its borders “.
The OCCA also said the McGirt decision specifically stated that Congress never conferred jurisdiction on Oklahoma.
âThe adoption of the theory of concurrent state jurisdiction is a political issue that can be dealt with by Congress, not this Court,â OCCA wrote.
The Court of Appeal recognized that their decision “caused great hardship for the victim’s family” and that there was a “serious question” as to whether or not the federal government could prosecute Roth because of a possible prescription.
“Despite this, we have no choice but to apply existing federal law,” OCCA wrote. “The case is simply out of our hands after McGirt.”
Contact Derrick James at [email protected]