Oklahoma asks court to rethink overturning murder conviction

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s attorney general on Wednesday asked the state’s highest criminal court to reconsider its ruling overturning a man’s murder convictions and death sentence because of jurisdictional issues stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court’s determination that much of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on March 11 overturned the conviction and sentence of Shaun Michael Bosse, 38, and rejected Attorney General Mike Hunter’s claim that the state had concurrent jurisdiction in the case.

In what is known as the McGirt decision, the Supreme Court in July 2020 ruled by a 5-4 vote that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal charges for crimes committed on tribal reservations in which the defendants or the victims are tribal citizens.

Bosse, who is not Native American, was convicted in the 2010 killings of Katrina Griffin and her two young children, who were Native American, on land within the Chickasaw Nation’s historic reservation.

Hunter contends that the appeals court wrongly concluded that the state and federal governments do not have concurrent jurisdiction in the case.

“We continue to believe the state has jurisdiction over non-Native Americans on tribal reservation lands, even if the federal government also has jurisdiction,” Hunter said in a statement. “The ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals ignores statutory language surrounding criminal appeals, which is why we are asking the court for a rehearing.”

Bosse’s attorney did not immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment.

The appeals court ruled that only the federal government has the authority to prosecute Bosse because Congress hasn’t passed a law giving Oklahoma such authority.

“Absent any law, compact or treaty allowing for jurisdiction in state, federal or tribal courts ... state jurisdiction over those crimes is preempted by federal law,” according to the court’s ruling, which was written by Presiding Judge Dana Kuehn.

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed murder and kidnapping charges against Bosse in the deaths of Griffin and her children, according to court records,

Although federal prosecutors have the authority to pursue the death penalty under certain circumstances, if the killing is determined to have occurred on tribal lands, the tribal nation would also have to agree to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Although some Oklahoma-based tribes have indicated they’re considering that option, only one — the Sac & Fox Nation of Oklahoma — has explicitly authorized the death penalty in federal cases.