Oklahoma’s newly appointed attorney general has filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to reconsider its landmark 2020 decision granting Native American tribes jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal lands.
Republican state Attorney General John O’Connor, who was appointed to his position late last month following the May resignation of Mike Hunter (R) amid reports of an extramarital affair, said in his Friday filing that the high court’s 5-4 ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma last year has prompted thousands of challenges from state prisoners related to decades of convictions.
“The decision in McGirt now drives thousands of crime victims to seek justice from federal and tribal prosecutors whose offices are not equipped to handle those demands,” the petition said.
“Numerous crimes are going uninvestigated and unprosecuted, endangering public safety,” the attorney general continued. “Federal district courts in Oklahoma are completely overwhelmed.”
O’Connor noted that many of the decades-old convictions cannot be prosecuted again, with the challenges now “jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue and calling into question the State’s regulatory authority within its own borders.”
The attorney general cited previous remarks from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), a member of the Cherokee Nation, who has opposed the McGirt decision and called the fallout from the ruling the “most pressing issue” for the future of Oklahoma.
“Simply put, the fundamental sovereignty of an American State is at stake,” O’Connor wrote Friday.
The petition requests that the Supreme Court consider releasing an updated decision narrowing the application of the 2020 ruling, under which violent felons convicted before the landmark decision could be prevented from being released by state prisons.
The state attorney general is also asking the Supreme Court to give Oklahoma authority over cases involving non-Native Americans who commit crimes against tribal citizens on reservations.
The state petition comes a day after an Oklahoma death row inmate, whose legal challenge eventually led to last year’s Supreme Court ruling, was convicted again in federal court for murder and kidnapping.
A jury on Thursday found 52-year-old Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphyEquilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Flaming shipwreck wreaks havoc on annual sea turtle migration The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Divided House on full display Mast fends off Democratic challenge to retain Florida House seat MORE guilty in the 1999 killing of George Jacobs in McIntosh County in eastern Oklahoma. He now faces up to life in federal prison, according to The Associated Press.
Murphy, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, had initially been convicted in state court and sentenced to death before the Supreme Court eventually ruled that Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction over the case.
Tribal leaders have condemned the Oklahoma government’s efforts to overturn the McGirt decision, with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. accusing the governor and attorney general of pushing an “anti-Indian political agenda.”
“The governor has never attempted to cooperate with the tribes to protect all Oklahomans,” Hoskin said in a statement Friday, according to the AP. “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.”