OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Up to 10 death row inmates in Oklahoma, more a fifth of the state’s death row prisoners could escape execution due to a recent US Supreme Court ruling regarding criminal jurisdiction in the Indian country.
The inmates challenged their convictions in state court following last year’s High Court ruling dubbed the McGirt ruling, which determined that much of eastern Oklahoma remains a Native American reservation. The ruling means Oklahoma prosecutors do not have the power to pursue criminal prosecutions in cases where the defendants, or the victims, are tribal citizens.
Among those who stand to gain a new trial in federal court is Shaun Michael Bosse, 38, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Katrina Griffin and her two young children in 2010. Victims have all were found in a burning mobile home near Dibble, about 35 miles south of Oklahoma City.
Dozens of other inmates sentenced in cases other than the death penalty are also seeking to have their convictions overturned, which is expected to result in a dramatic increase in the workload of federal prosecutors.
Although Bosse is not a citizen of the tribe, the court determined that Griffin and his children were Native Americans and that the crime took place on land inside the Chickasaw Nation Historic Reserve.
The decision is particularly frustrating for District Attorney Greg Mashburn, whose office has sued Bosse.
“He’s taking advantage of the people he’s killed,” Mashburn said. “It would be a travesty of justice if he got anything other than death.”
Mashburn said another trial would also revictimize Griffin’s family, who were happy with the outcome of the state’s trial.
“Unfortunately, the law does not ask for their opinion,” Mashburn said.
Stephen Greetham, an attorney for the Chickasaw Nation, said Griffin’s family contacted the tribe fearing that Bosse could escape his death sentence. But he says the tribe has no say in this case because Bosse is not an American Indian.
“It’s not under our jurisdiction, so it’s entirely at the discretion of the federal prosecutor,” Greetham said.
The cases of Bosse and nine other death row inmates are being re-examined in the district court to determine whether the accused or the victims are registered members of a federally recognized tribe and whether the crime was committed on a tribal reserve, according to the attorney general’s office. If these conditions are met, it is likely that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals will dismiss the convictions and force the cases to be retried in federal court where getting a death sentence is a lot. more difficult.
While federal prosecutors have the power to apply the death penalty in certain circumstances, if it is determined that the murder took place on tribal land, the tribal nation must also accept the death penalty. While some Oklahoma-based tribes have indicated they are considering this option, only one tribe – the Sac & Fox Nation of Oklahoma – has explicitly allowed the death penalty in federal cases.
“The Sac & Fox Nation has always been a tribe of law and order,” said Carter Truman, American Indian law expert and former Sac & Fox Nation attorney. “Our position was that if one of the most serious federal crimes were committed and you had a dangerous defendant accused of committing that crime, the death penalty should be an option.”
But none of the crimes committed by death row inmates seeking to have their convictions overturned took place on Sac & Fox lands. US Attorney Trent Shores has said that these cases need to be tried again, especially …
- According to the source 10 death row inmates in Oklahoma could get new trials.
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