This Is a Pre-Conviction Case
Video Transcribed: OCCA Denies State Appeal Requesting the Court Delay McGirt Ruling. I’m an attorney for McGirt cases, James Wirth, and we’re talking about another McGirt case and another appeal by the State, another denial against the State there. So in this case, it’s out of Seminole County and it is a pre-conviction case.
So the person was charged with a crime, went to a preliminary hearing, was bound over a preliminary hearing. And then prior to trial, they filed a motion to dismiss based on McGirt, essentially asserting that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the defendant is an Indian and it occurred within the reservation tribal boundaries.
However, the McGirt case, that precedent from the United States Supreme Court deals with the Muskogee (Creek) Nation. This case deals with the Seminole Nation reservation. And it went before the trial judge and the trial judge ultimately dismissed the case, holding that the Seminole Nation reservation was never disestablished by Congress by following the rules and the blueprint to make that decision laid out by McGirt. The State of Oklahoma dismissed.
And it didn’t say in their appeal, they didn’t assert that the trial court made the wrong decision. What they asserted is, is that the court should have delayed making any decision whatsoever to allow other appellate court decisions to come down.
Specifically, they knew that the Grayson case was already pending before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the State requested, “Let’s stay this case. Let’s not make a ruling. Let’s just wait till this Grayson case is decided and then we’ll have a better idea of what the precedent is from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.”
Well, from my perspective, that seems like a very weak argument to make. And I could see why the court may under some circumstances want to delay if there’s a precedent coming out soon so as not to do something different than what the new precedent when it comes out, says.
But the idea that the prosecutor thinks that they have a right to a delay in the case to allow for additional precedent is a bit asinine from my point of view. And to appeal to that reason, I also think is a bit asinine.
So what did the court decide? Well, essentially, we can go in there, and while this appeal was pending, the Grayson decision did come out, found that the Seminole Nation was not disestablished. So it kind of made a lot of these issues moot when that came out. But nonetheless, we did get an opinion from the court that kind of set the State straight. So this is what it is. This is quoted from the opinion, and this is not published, but it’s the State of Oklahoma versus Coker Dean Barker. What did come out today, April 29th of 2021.
And it says, “The State of Oklahoma now appeals raising two propositions that each challenge to the district court’s failure to defer its ruling pending this court’s resolution of relevant tribal issues presented in Bosse and Grayson v. State.” And then it goes on and it says in its decision, “The State thus asserts the district court should have exercised judicial restraint by deferring its determination until this court had dispensed precedential guidance related to the Seminole Nation.”
And the court essentially says that’s not grounds for an appeal. It says, and I quote, “The State’s claim is not cognizable on appeal.” So yeah, the job of the district court is to make these decisions. That is the job of the court and the judge. It’s to review the precedents that we have, McGirt, apply them to the facts of that specific case, and make a decision. Then if either side wants to appeal it, they can appeal it to the higher court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
The idea that the State thinks that they can force the state court to not rule on it so that they can hope that there’ll be a better precedent in the future, I just don’t like the idea that they would even do that. But the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals gave them a pretty quick smackdown and said that’s not a cognizable claim. We can’t even hear that appeal. It’s denied. And then of course, at this point, it’s moot because we do now already have a published decision that says the Seminole Nation reservation was never disestablished.
So if you’ve got a case this may be relevant to, pending one, maybe McGirt’s an issue, or another criminal defense case you want to talk to an attorney about, you can get an appointment scheduled for a confidential consultation. You can do that by going to makelaweasy.com.