SCOTUS to decide state’s ability to prosecute crime committed on Indian reservation

Posted at 9:26 AM, May 11, 2020 and last updated 6:57 PM, May 18, 2023

By Court TV Staff

On May 11, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case about boundaries in the law and of the land.

In 1997, Jimcy McGirt was convicted or raping his wife’s four-year-old granddaughter and sentenced to life in prison.

The crime took place in McGirt’s home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which is located in both Wagoner and Tulsa counties. His home is also within the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation territory, which McGirt is a member of.

In front of SCOTUS, McGirt’s defense is arguing that the State of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him for a crime committed on land belonging to a  federally-recognized, sovereign Native American tribe. His defense is citing the Indian Major Crimes Act, which states that serious crimes involving Native American victims or perpetrators, or occurring within recognized reservation boundaries, fall exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

In McGirt’s case, he claims Congress never transferred jurisdiction over the Creek Reservation to the State of Oklahoma.

The State claims the prosecution was proper because it has proper jurisdiction, citing the law set forth in the state Constitution, which says district courts shall have unlimited original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters in Oklahoma. That State also notes it has prosecuted Native Americans for major crimes committed within the historical boundaries of the Creek Nation for the past 111 years.

Now, it’s up to the nine Justices to decide where the legal boundaries lie.



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