Charges dismissed against Choctaw man following court ruling
OKLAHOMA (KXII) - The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals announced Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma applies to the Choctaw Nation.
The ruling centered on a Pittsburg County case involving a member of the Choctaw Nation, 26-year-old Devin Sizemore. Sizemore was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2016 murder of his 21-month-old daughter, Emily.
Following the ruling, all state charges against Sizemore are dismissed.
“We asked them to identify those cases that they had concerns about having McGirt complications” said Choctaw Nation Tribal prosecutor Kara Bacon.
“(Thursday) We filed 125 cases, and our point in doing that was to ensure that those people who are incarcerated and dangerous, they will have holds on them, they will stay in jail, regardless of what the state does” Bacon said.
Most of the more serious felony cases will end up being prosecuted in Federal court.
“Our ultimate goal, is to work together with state prosecutors to ensure that we are protecting our public first and fore most,” said Bacon.
For tribal law enforcement, executive director of public safety John Hobbs says it means they have lots of work ahead.
“It changes the jurisdiction from previously, what they considered Indian country, to just being property that was in trust or allotted land, to making the entire Choctaw Nation area Indian land” Hobbs said.
Hobbs says they’re in the process of training local law enforcement and agencies.
“What can we do to make it as easy as possible? Because we’ve got law enforcement officers that need to know how criminal jurisdiction in Indian country works, we’ve been putting items in place for months now to try and make the process as smooth and as easy as possible,” said Hobbs.
Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton stated in a press release that the tribe has been preparing for this decision for two years and that the tribe is prepared to file more than 125 cases in the District Court of the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaw Nation is not the only tribe to be affected by the ruling. In March the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that members of Oklahoma Native American Tribes can only be tried by tribal courts.
Major crimes such as murder, arson and rape could still be decided in federal court.
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