Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
Attorneys involved in, impacted by Murphy v. Royal give insights
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The calls kept coming in.
Phones were lighting up all week at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Tribal Police headquarters and Office of the Attorney General with citizens asking about the Murphy v. Royal case.
The 1999 murder conviction of Muscogee (Creek) citizen Patrick Murphy was overturned in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Aug. 8, based on the argument that he committed the crime in Indian Country based on the MCN’s 1866 treaty with the federal government.
A stay in the case requested by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter was granted Nov. 16 so the state can file certiorari petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court ruling.
Previously, explicit MCN tribal territory was commonly only linked to land owned by the Nation or its citizens and held in trust or restricted status with approval by the federal government.
The precedent resulting from the case could broaden this to the entire 11-county tribal jurisdiction, which brings up questions about changes in criminal and civil oversight.
Ghezzi, who serves as co-counsel for Murphy, gave the case history and Dellinger spoke about what is involved with the potential for a transition back to the 1866 jurisdiction status.
Dellinger and Ghezzi both indicated a disagreement with claims made by the state and federal governments regarding concerns over law enforcement resource challenges and caseload issues that could arise.
Among the concerns presented by the Oklahoma and federal justice departments that they deemed unsubstantiated were:
Every state conviction involving tribal citizens within the jurisdiction will be subject to collateral attack in federal court.
The U.S. will be required to investigate and prosecute 1,000 new cases each year.
The increased caseload will fall on a single Eastern District federal judge and that civil rights protection will be inapplicable to many Oklahoma citizens.
“There have been a lot of issues brought up that aren’t supported by data or evidence,” Dellinger said. “The message we wanted to get out to the community is we have the resources, the personnel, the ability to address this issue.”
Dellinger said an outcome in favor of Murphy would require a need to enact government-to-government relations and find a solution that works for all parties moving forward.
He likened the situation to the boom of the gaming industry and how the state and tribes worked together under a new system to create compacts.
“It’s going to take the efforts of a lot of people,” he said. “Other tribes, the state, the feds working together.”
There were questions taken from the audience regarding concerns over individual land status changes, territorial reach and mostly on the tribe’s ability to handle a larger law enforcement responsibility.
“There have been brief conversations at this point about moving forward and increasing our personnel and infrastructure,” Dellinger said. “There are valid concerns about that and the Nation footing that.”
Dellinger said they have also been discussions with the other governments impacted by the case.
“We’re looking outside of the Nation initially to help us make this transition if the Murphy case is upheld and that gives the Nation a little more time to have those conversations about fiscal concerns,” he said.
Dellinger said an executive session was held during an Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes meeting with attorneys present to discuss the matter.
The State of Oklahoma’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case is due Feb. 7, 2018.
The Murphy brief in opposition to this petition is due March 9, 2018.1 comment