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Man at center of landmark tribal sovereignty case to get another day in court

Jimcy McGirt
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Jimcy McGirt

Jimcy McGirt, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court ruling, will get a new trial beginning Sept. 11.

Earlier this year, federal appeals judges ruled McGirt’s conviction should be overturnedbecause his 2020 jury was wrongly limited in how to weigh inconsistent witness testimony from 1997. The court says in its order while the jury could have still found McGirt guilty, the judges were unsure they would have.

“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.”

In 2020, the Supreme Courtruled McGirt was wrongly tried in state court because the crimes were 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.

Federal attorney Christopher Wilson originally prosecuted the case. He toldThe Oklahoman he was disappointed in the reversal, but will keep pursuing McGirt’s re-conviction.

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.

Robby grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Journalism degree. Robby has reported for several newspapers, including The Roanoke Times in southwest Virginia. He reported for StateImpact Oklahoma from 2019 through 2022, focusing on education.
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