Oklahoma Court Reverses McGirt Rulings in Four Death Cases

Mike Seals - September 1, 2021 10:23 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday reversed four previous rulings that overturned death penalty cases based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled earlier in August that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in what is known as the McGirt case does not apply retroactively. The McGirt ruling found that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens.

On Tuesday, the same appeals court vacated its rulings that had cited the McGirt decision in overturning the cases of death row inmates Shaun Bosse, James Ryder, Miles Bench and Benjamin Cole Sr.

It was not immediately clear if the ruling reinstates the death penalty in the four cases.

“We’re reviewing (the ruling) right now to determine the next steps,” said Alex Gerszewski, spokesperson for state Attorney General John O’Connor.

The appeals court issued a one-paragraph ruling in each case saying the court will rule later on each inmate’s request for post-conviction relief. A ruling on post-conviction relief could still overturn, or uphold, either the conviction or the sentence.

Attorneys for the four inmates did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

Cole, 56, was sentenced to death for killing his 9-month-old daughter in Rogers County in 2002. Ryder, 59, was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Daisy Hallum, 70, and to life without parole for killing her son, Sam Hallum, 38, in Pittsburg County. Bosse is on death row for killing his girlfriend and her two children and Bench was condemned for death of a 16-year-old girl who was abducted from a convenience store.

Each of the cases fall under the McGirt decision because the crimes all occurred on tribal reservations and the victims in the cases of Bosse, Cole and Ryder were tribal members. Bench was member of the Choctaw Nation.

Under McGirt, the cases fall to federal prosecutors and federal charges have been filed against Bench, Bosse and Cole.

O’Connor, the state attorney general, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its McGirt ruling.


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