Normally Serious Offenses Go to the Feds
Video Transcribed: The U.S. attorney’s office only indicts 10% of the referrals for prosecution it receives from the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office after McGirt. I’m Tulsa lawyer James Wirth, and we’re talking about a new report out, we just got a copy of it.
It was actually it’s dated August 20th of 2021, but we got a copy recently. It’s being released along with the City of Tulsa and the City of Owasso filing amicus curiae briefs with the United States Supreme Court requesting that McGirt be overturned or at least limited to where you have Indian defendants.
And they commissioned the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, commissioned this report to look at the statistics of how many cases they’re referring out for prosecution that they can’t prosecute by the state anymore because of McGirt, and how many are being picked up by the Federal Government through the United States Attorney’s Office or through the Tribe, and it’s interesting the numbers for the Feds, that essentially what they’re showing during the time period that they’ve been pulling this data, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office referred 780 cases for prosecution to the Federal Government.
Now normally if it’s a more serious offense it would go to the Feds, generally speaking, if it’s a lesser offense it would go to the Tribes, so these offenses are ones that they decided not to refer to the Tribe, that they specifically referred to the United States Attorney’s Office. And of those only 10% received indictments or are being prosecuted by the Federal Government. So 90% of those are potentially falling through the cracks.
However, it’s important to a member the Federal Government has a little bit higher standard for what cases they accept. They’ve got Federal FBI agents they’re used to dealing with that are highly trained and educated and they want to make sure that before they file a criminal indictment in Federal Court that they know they’ve got a win on it.
The standards in state court sometimes see a little bit, some of the law enforcement that reports to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, particularly some of the smaller municipalities, sheriff deputies, may not be of the same level that you would hold an FBI agent to.
So there are differences in the reports that they receive and what they’re used to that may partially explain why the prosecution rate with the Federal Government is as low as it, that they’re holding the burden of proof to a higher standard in deciding to file.
Also, there could be limitations related to the number of attorneys they have and the volume that they can do. They’re certainly doing a much higher volume than they’re used to doing anytime in the previous past in the State of Oklahoma.
So that factors in as well, but it’s interesting that we have the numbers here and that they are available and only 10% of referred cases are being prosecuted, indicted in Federal Court when the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office is sending those over.
And of course, the City of Tulsa in their Amicus brief is saying that this is a nightmare and is evidence that suggests that this is not working post-McGirt and that the United States Supreme Court needs to do a complete 180 from the McGirt decision last year and do the opposite this year, that is what they’re hoping for. It would be highly unusual for the court to do that, but there are cases pending where these issues are going to be likely decided by the United States Supreme Court.
If you’ve got questions on how this affects your particular circumstances you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about that privately, confidentially. To get that scheduled with somebody at my office you can go online to makelaweasy.com.