The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals announced Thursday a decision in a case originating in Pittsburg County that the U.S. Supreme Court's analysis in McGirt v. Oklahoma applies to the Choctaw Nation.
A 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in July 2020 found Congress never “disestablished” the reservation status of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and overturned state convictions of two men, Jimcy McGirt and Patrick Murphy, who both challenged their state convictions.
Both men were retried in federal court and found guilty.
The ruling means cases involving Native American suspects and victims fall under federal jurisdiction under the 1885 Major Crimes Act, which gave the federal government exclusive prosecutorial power in cases involving Native Americans on tribal lands.
Devin Sizemore, 26, of Krebs, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole by a Pittsburg County jury in 2018 for first-degree murder in the 2016 death of his 21-month-old daughter, Emily. He was also convicted on a second felony charge of assault and battery on a police officer.
The decision now vacates and dismisses the state charges against Sizemore. A federal charge was not filed against Sizemore as this story was being prepared for publication.
Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said in a press release that the tribe has been preparing for this decision for two years.
“The Choctaw Nation has been preparing for the shift in criminal case jurisdiction for well over two years," said Batton. "I am grateful for the work of our Public Safety Department, Tribal Prosecutor’s Office, our Judicial branch, and the Sovereignty for Strong Communities Commission to protect public safety and to offer individuals a fair and efficient trial."
The tribe announced it is prepared to file more than 125 cases in the District Court of the Choctaw Nation.
This is a developing story that will be updated when more information is gathered.