© 2024 KGOU
Oklahoma sunset
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jimcy McGirt's conviction overturned by federal court

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Jimcy McGirt, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court ruling, had his federal child rape convictions overturned by a federal appeals court Tuesday.

The court overturned the ruling based on the premise that the jury was improperly instructed on how to consider the previous testimony of trial witnesses that showed inconsistency.

In 2020, the Supreme Courtruled McGirt was wrongly tried in state court as the crimes committed on the Muscogee Nation reservation, a standing reservation that had never been disestablished by Congress. McGirt is a member of the Seminole Nation.

That decision reaffirmed several reservations in Eastern Oklahoma, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Ottawa, Peoria, Quapaw and Seminole.

The Supreme Court ruling meant that crimes involving Native American defendants which happened on reservations are to be tried by the federal government or tribal prosecutors. Several people were released from state custody following the decision and given federal trials, including McGirt.

A federal jury in 2020found McGirt guilty of three felonies related to child sex abuse of a then four-year-old girl in 1996. In 2021, McGirt was sentenced to three life terms in federal prison.

Tuesday, an appellate court found that a trial judge had unfairly limited how the jury could consider inconsistent witness testimony in comparison of the 2020 and the 1997 original trial. The jury should have been allowed to consider the validity of old statements, though they were instructed against that in 2020.

A new trial could be possible for McGirt, as the court couldn’t determine which way the jury would have decided things based on evidence.

“But this was no open-and-shut case,” the court wrote. “In that light, we cannot say that the jury would necessarily have rejected Mr. McGirt’s defense — based largely on the state-court testimony — to the allegations against him.”

Federal attorney Christopher Wilson originally prosecuted the case. He toldThe Oklahoman he is disappointed in the reversal, but will keep pursuing it.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.