Supreme Court "originalist" judge Neil Gorsuch joined with the leftists on Thursday to overturn the conviction of a Native American child molester who repeatedly raped a 4-year-old girl and reportedly ruled that "about half of Oklahoma is a Native American reservation" and tribe members within are "now set to become exempt from certain state obligations such as paying state taxes."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday recognized about half of Oklahoma as Native American reservation land and overturned a tribe member's rape conviction because the location where the crime was committed should have been considered outside the reach of state criminal law.
The justices ruled 5-4 in favor of a man named Jimcy McGirt and agreed that the site of the rape should have been recognized as part of a reservation based on the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation - beyond the jurisdiction of state authorities. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s four liberals in the majority.
The ruling means that for the first time much of eastern Oklahoma is legally considered reservation land. More than 1.8 million people live in the land at issue, including roughly 400,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city.
Tribe members who live within the boundaries are now set to become exempt from certain state obligations such as paying state taxes, while certain Native Americans found guilty in state courts may be able to challenge their convictions on jurisdictional grounds. The tribe also may obtain more power to regulate alcohol sales and expand casino gambling.
The ruling could affect the other four of the "Five Tribes" in Oklahoma: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole tribes.
The ruling voided McGirt's sentence of 1,000 years in prison but he could face a new trial in federal court rather than state court.
Under U.S. law, tribe members who commit crimes on tribal land cannot be prosecuted in state courts and instead are subject to federal prosecution, which sometimes can be beneficial to defendants.
Thank you so much Republicans for giving us this "conservative" Supreme Court!
McGirt, 71, has served more than two decades in prison after being convicted in 1997 in Wagoner County in eastern Oklahoma of rape, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy of a 4-year-old girl. McGirt, who did not contest his guilt in the case before the justices, had appealed a 2019 ruling by a state appeals court in favor of Oklahoma.
[...] The justices weighed a complex historical record that started with the forced relocation by the U.S. government of Native Americans, including the Creek Nation, to Oklahoma in a traumatic 19th century event known as the "trail of tears."
It's now up to a federal court to prosecute McGirt for child rape. If they somehow botch the case, you're looking at a free man.
Court TV released a backgrounder on the case in late April: