U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction is having a significant impact on victims of major crimes.
He said these are victims whose have been overturned by the state and are facing having to revisit their case and even testify in court again.
“When I’m asked about what is the impact of this case on the victims, it’s horrific,” Shores said.
Now three months after the ruling went into effect in Oklahoma, Shores said he doesn’t deny the challenges the ruling places on victims and their families.
“In some sense it makes your stomach hurt when you think about these victims are going to have to go through the court process a second time," Shores said. "It is a concern that folks may get out of jail or out of prison, and I can't imagine being the shoes of crime victims that are facing this right now."
Shores also said there will some cases his office will not be able to prosecute.
“The reality of the situation is that over time, memories aren't as good, evidence become stale, and so I'm hoping - I am praying that we're going to be able to aggressively and fully pursue all these cases,” Shores said.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said she has her own concerns about the ruling. As the law stands, neither tribes nor the state have jurisdiction over car thefts or home burglaries when committed by a non-tribal member on a tribal member. That means those crimes can only be prosecuted by the federal government.
"That is something as a prosecutor I don't love, because I would like to be able to get justice for anybody who is victimized inside a reservation," Hill said. "So that is something that is definitely concerning to me."
Shores promised to take on all those cases with the help of more volunteer victim coordinators and prosecutors.
“I think a full measure of justice will be achieved and it will be a large part due to the strength of the individual victims," said Shores.
If a victim receives notice of dismissal of a defendant’s case by the State and has questions about the case’s federal status, they may call the U.S. Attorney’s Office and speak with a victim specialist at 918-382-2700.
Victims of crimes on the Cherokee Nation reservation can call the ONE FIRE Victim Services office at 918-772-4260.