Hundreds Of Cases Handed To Tribal Courts, US Attorneys Following McGirt Ruling

Friday, September 18th 2020, 4:15 pm
By: Mallory Thomas

TULSA, Okla. -

Hundreds of criminal cases are being handed over to tribal courts and the U.S. Attorney’s office after the state dropped more charges against Tulsa County suspects.

Every other Friday, a judge goes through a list of names on a docket and dismisses charges if the suspect or the victim in the case is a tribal member. Most cases will be refiled in tribal or federal court. 

"There is a lot of work to go around and my team is working around the clock. So are our law enforcement partners," U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said. "I think that the last two months we have charged over 114 federal indictments. In a normal year we might do around 220 or 240 over the course of twelve full months."

Shores said in some cases the suspect was ready to take a plea deal before the McGirt ruling. 

"Hopefully if folks were ready to plead to the state system they'll be in the same posture when they come over to federal court. There are some differences of course between the state and federal system," said Shores. 

Shores said parole is not an option on federal charges meaning suspects serve 85% of their sentence. 

"As we look at individuals going to federal prison instead of state prison and if it's for a longer period of time, that's going to give the communities that those defendants were terrorizing or those households where those defendants were causing problems an opportunity to rebuild," said Shores. 

Friday's docket included murder, rape, shooting with intent to kill, and many other state charges which already have an equivalent federal charge, but there can be differences. 

"Going through a training talking about 'what is Indian country,'" Shores said. "What are federal laws that they're going to see, what are some of those Muscogee Creek Nation laws that they're going to see, and how is their day-to-day life maybe going to change."