Court orders Oklahoma death row inmate to remain in state custody for 45 days

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 04/19/2021, 1:40 PM
Edited: 04/19/2021, 1:42 PM

Photo Courtesy: Oklahoma State Courts Network

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) Following a morning of oral arguments, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has granted the state’s emergency motion to stay the mandate in the case of death row inmate Shaun Bosse.

Bosse will remain in state custody for 45 days. The court said this will be their final decision in the case.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter released a statement after the court's decision, thanking his legal team and saying they plan to file for a further stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“While we prepare our petition, my heart remains with the victims, including a family member of one of Bosse’s victims who was in the courtroom today," Hunter said. "I want to assure them we are doing everything in our power to uphold these convictions and deliver the justice they deserve.”

During Thursday’s arguments, the State of Oklahoma held the position that Bosse should remain in state custody while they ask the Supreme Court to hear the case and clarify if their McGirt decision last year impacts non-American Indian defendants.

Read VNN’s previous story on the Bosse case here:

The state argued if the court’s mandate isn’t stayed, hundreds of non-American Indian criminals will be released from state custody because their victims are American Indian, and they shouldn’t be if the Supreme Court ends up siding with them.

They also said some criminals likely wouldn’t see a federal retrial in their cases, that cases dismissed by the state might create some kind of double jeopardy scenario if the Supreme Court rules Oklahoma does in fact have jurisdiction over non-American Indian defendants, and the current system wasn’t designed and wouldn’t do well absorbing the extra burden of cases.

Bosse’s federal public defenders argued while they taking the case to the Supreme Court is the correct way for the state to keep pushing its case, Bosse shouldn’t remain in state custody for the process. They said the court had already ruled in this matter, and a complaint has already been filed against Bosse in federal court, which would prevent him from being released.

As for the potential legal repercussions, Bosse’s legal team cited the conclusion the Supreme Court came to in the McGirt case: “the magnitude of a legal wrong is no reason to perpetuate it.”

The Chickasaw Nation also weighed in on the matter by filing an amicus brief saying, while they agreed with the court’s opinion, they would like the court to stay the mandate for an additional 60 days so they could continue to implement an intergovernmental system that accommodates the recent “Indian Country” decisions and have more time to transfer defendants to the right custody.

And the Chickasaw Nation went a step further, weighing on another matter: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

In their amicus brief, the Chickasaw Nation said, “the Oklahoma Governor has sensationalized and exaggerated accounts of transitional challenges, which actions have heightened political concerns over the process and undermined faith in the law” and said his “overtly political rhetoric is unhelpful, misleading, and divisive.”

Ultimately, the court said the state had no factual basis proving irreparable harm if non-American Indians criminals are released pending federal prosecution.

But, the harm from potential double jeopardy scenarios and lack of federal trials were not as easily disproved, with emphasis on the first.

Such cases have already been dismissed, like the case of Tanner Washington in Pontotoc County. Washington is a non-American Indian man accused of killing his teenage girlfriend, Faith Lindsey, a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

Read VNN’s coverage of the Washington case here:

Washington was arrested for Murder in the First Degree with a Pre-Meditated Design in December 2019. His motion to dismiss was granted on April 5. The court ordered he remain in state custody for 30 days to give the federal officials the opportunity to take the case, and Washington into custody.

In a previous VNN story, we talked with Steve Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation.

He said for them, the best way forward would be for Congress to pass legislation to allow the state and the tribes to compact on the prosecution of major crimes. That would ease the burden off the federal government, who due to the Major Crimes Act, has exclusivity over prosecuting major crimes in “Indian Country”.

Find a link to VNN’s full interview with Greetham here:

Oklahoma has two US senators and five US representatives. We emailed them all last week to see if they were drafting legislation to allow the state and the tribes to compact on prosecuting major crimes. Only Bice responded, saying she was not.

We made follow up calls and sent follow up emails to the other six lawmakers earlier this week but have yet to hear a response.

Coming up next, VNN plans to sit down with Acting United States Attorney Christopher J. Wilson Friday to find out how Oklahoma's Eastern District is handling the uptick in federal cases.

This story is a part of the Oklahoma Media Center’s Promised Land collaborative effort, which shows how the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision will affect both tribal and non-Indigenous residents in the state. For more information, click here:


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