Oklahoma City, OK In a victory for the State of Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court today recognized the authority of the State of Oklahoma to prosecute non-Indian criminals who injure or take the lives or property of Indians in eastern Oklahoma. For the first time since the McGirt decision, Oklahoma can prosecute non-Indian criminals anywhere within the State’s borders, whether or not the victim is Indian.
“All Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, will now receive equal protection against being victimized by non-Indian criminals,” said Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.
“[T]he Court’s precedents establish that Indian country is part of a State’s territory,” the Court said. “States do not need a permission slip from Congress to exercise their sovereign authority.” Accordingly, the Court “conclude[d] that the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country.”
In this case, Castro, a Mexican national, was convicted by a State court jury of abusing his five year-old Indian stepdaughter. Castro argued that, because his victim was Indian, Oklahoma could not prosecute him. The Indian nations agreed with Castro in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. Castro argued that he could avoid State prosecution by harming only Indians. In rejecting his argument, the Court observed that Castro “would require this Court to treat Indian victims as second-class citizens. We decline to do so.”
“I commend the Supreme Court for its courage. Today’s ruling is an important first step in restoring law and order in our great State,” said General O’Connor. “The State is committed to the safety of all Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, and now non-Indian criminals cannot use discrimination to escape justice.”
In addition to its win as a petitioner in Castro-Huerta, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has also submitted amicus briefs on the prevailing side of twelve (12) cases at the U.S. Supreme Court this term. These briefs have resulted in decisions defending the Second Amendment right to bear arms, protecting the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, and overturning Roe v. Wade, allowing States to defend the unborn and returning major policy decisions to the people and their elected representatives.
To read the opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, click here. To read the Attorney General’s brief, click here.